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Celebrating One of Their Own

The GW Chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society Welcomes Alan Zucker, MD ’82, LLM, at the 62nd Annual Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and 10th Annual Grand Rounds

The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) celebrated one of its own, New York State Commissioner of Health Howard Alan Zucker, MD ’82, LLM, on May 18 at the 62nd Annual Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society (AΩA) Awards and Induction Banquet. Organizers Angelike Liappis, MD ’96, associate professor of medicine at SMHS and secretary of the GW chapter of AΩA, and Alan Wasserman, MD, chair of the department of medicine, Eugene Meyer Professor of Medicine at SMHS, and GW AΩA Chapter Councilor, welcomed Zucker as they celebrated the induction of this year’s newest AΩA members.

“The first class of students inducted in GW’s AOA chapter was among the class of 1954,” explained Wasserman as he shared the history of GW’s AΩA chapter, the first in the District of Columbia. Among the guests attending the first banquet were School of Medicine Dean Walter A. Bloedorn, MD; Cloyd Heck Marvin, who served as president of GW from 1927 to 1959; and the National President of AOA Walter Bierring, MD. “The keynote speaker that evening was Dr. James Waring, a pulmonary medicine and tuberculosis specialist and the first chair of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine,” Wasserman said, adding that Waring ultimately went on to co-found, with Gerald B. Webb, MD, the Webb-Waring Center in 1924 as a freestanding institute for the study of tuberculosis.

“Today, I believe we have a guest speaker, and well-known GW alumnus, whose accomplishments may be equal to those of our first AΩA keynote speaker,” said Wasserman.

Prior to his appointment as commissioner of health, Zucker built a vast resume of accomplishments in clinical care, academia, and public health: associate professor of clinical pediatrics and anesthesiology and pediatric director of the ICU at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he launched the re-structuring of the critical care complex both from a physical environment as well as clinical care delivery; deputy assistant secretary of health and human services under Secretary Tommy Thompson, where he developed the nation’s Medical Reserve Corps Assistant; and director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Earlier on May 18, Zucker delivered the 10th annual GW AΩA Internal Medicine Grand Rounds lecture. The lecture serves as one of the unofficial kickoff events to the weekend’s commencement ceremonies and gives the GW chapter of the national medical honor society the opportunity to host a national leader to address issues relating to science, the art of medicine, and professional values.

In his remarks, “Cultivating Ingenuity: The Next Renaissance and the Role of Government,” Zucker addressed the wheel of innovation — the development of tools, which produce new information, consequently generating richer pools of data that inform the creation of new devices — to make the argument that governance creates the environment in which innovation may flourish.

“Da Vinci drawings and Galileo’s telescope,” Zucker said, “their ideas inform how we think today. The tools they created gathered an incredible amount of innovation and information about our universe and about ourselves, which led to even greater tools, which led to even more data. This is how the wheel of innovation has turned ever since, carrying us into the 21st century.”

Government, he explained, is a critical driver of the wheel of innovation. “To turn the wheel, research must be fostered and results disseminated and applied. In order to use that information, guidance and regulation must be created to allow for a safe and equitable access.”

To illustrate his point, Zucker led the standing room-only crowd in the GW Hospital Auditorium through a historical journey of invention from the Renaissance to the Space Age and finally to the $10 million Qualcomm XPRIZE competition to develop a working tricorder, the medical scanning device used in Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” series.

“Throughout time, governments have provided the environment to allow innovators to jump from yesterday’s inventions to tomorrow’s devices,” Zucker said.

In his remarks to the newest class of AΩA, Zucker, who earned his MD from SMHS at age 22, recalled the frenetic pace and many twists his life path took, from a dramatic birth to a chance encounter that led to a position at WHO, and eventually his role as health commissioner. He also offered valuable tips he’s picked up along the way.

“My grandfather once gave me a piece of advice when I was a kid,” Zucker told the inductees. “He said, ‘Let me give you two lessons about life. Lesson number one, don’t volunteer for anything. And lesson number two, never work for the government.’ I don’t believe that. I’ve volunteered for everything my whole life, and I work for the government.

“My advice on a lot of things is when doors open, you have to be willing to take a risk or to gamble because you never know,” he continued. “Since becoming commissioner of health, I’ve dealt with Ebola, fracking, Zika, medical marijuana, natural disasters — things that I never thought I would work on. I’ve learned a lot of lessons. From where you are right now as medical students, your lessons from this day forward will form who you are, and all of that will come to be valuable.”

Following Zucker’s address, Wasserman, now in his 16th year as councilor of the GW Alpha Chapter of AΩA, introduced the newest class of AΩA members: two faculty members, three residents, a voluntary clinical faculty member, and 32 members of the 2017 SMHS M.D. graduating class.

“Election is a distinction that will accompany you for the rest of your careers,” Wasserman said. “It will be something to live up to for the rest of your lives.”

For the graduates, selection to AΩA is based on academic standing, as well as leadership qualities, professionalism and a firm sense of ethics, promise of future success in medicine, and a commitment to service in the school and community. Only the top 25 percent of graduating medical students are eligible for nomination to the society. Inductees are selected by their peers and faculty members based on their demonstration of leadership, character, community service, and professionalism.





Sigrid Bairdain, MD ’08, MPH 
Chief General Surgery Resident, Department of Surgery

John M. DiBianco, MD
Resident, Department of Urology


Mortada A. Shams, MD, BS ’07
Cardiology Fellow, Department of Medicine



Jennifer M. Keller, MD, RESD ’07, MPH ’07
Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology


Patrick W. Mufarrij, MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Urology



Howard Alan Zucker, MD ’82, LLM
Commissioner, Department of Health, New York State


2017 AΩA Alpha Chapter Voluntary Clinical Faculty Award

Joan V. Liebermann, MD ’77
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, and of Obstetrics and Gynecology


GW SMHS MD Program Class of 2017

Jennifer Leigh Andrews
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
General Surgery


Divya Angra
Howard University Hospital


Mary Elizabeth Buchanan
Johns Hopkins Hospital


Na Cao
Tufts Medical Center 
Orthopaedic Surgery


Amy Vickery Chambliss
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Pediatrics-Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation


Tony Yuan-Ting Chen
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School 


Facundo Davaro-Comas
St. Louis University School of Medicine 


Gabriela M. DeVries
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center 


Tiffany A. Dong
Emory University School of Medicine 
Internal Medicine


Katherine Anne Harmon
Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles 


Karolina Jaluba
Stanford University 
Internal Medicine


Aria Mousa Jamshidi
Jackson Memorial Hospital
Neurological Surgery


Deborah B. Jeon
Stanford University 


Laura Danielle Johns
Maricopa Medical Center
Emergency Medicine


Youngjun David Kim
Loma Linda University 


Maxwell Philip Krasity
University of Michigan Hospital 
Internal Medicine


David MacPherson
New York Eye & Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai


Ethan Lester Matz
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center 


Bernard Mendis
Duke University Medical Center 


Alexandra Grace Mills
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai 
Internal Medicine


Ashley E. Mills
David Grant Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base
University of California, Davis 
Internal Medicine


Aisha Amber Mumtaz
University of Maryland Medical Center 


Radostin Ruslanov Penchev
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Internal Medicine


Diane Chungtine Peng
University of Michigan Hospital 


Kathleen Mary Pollard
University of Chicago Medical Center 
Internal Medicine


Corey Todd Resnick
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center