AOA inductees 2018.

In recognition of their academic excellence and commitment to medicine, residents, medical students and one faculty member were inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha.

UB Welcomes 37 Inductees Into AOA Honor Medical Society

Published April 4, 2018

In recognition of their academic excellence and commitment to the profession, 33 medical students, three residents and one faculty member have been inducted into the University at Buffalo’s chapter of the national honor medical society Alpha Omega Alpha.


Highest Honor for Medical School Students

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, addressed the inductees.

“Congratulations to each of you on this achievement and really terrific milestone in your medical career. Election to Alpha Omega Alpha is the highest honor a medical student may attain in medical school. The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is most proud of you and your accomplishments,” Cain said.

Election to AOA is a lifelong honor that signifies a commitment to scholarship, leadership, professionalism and service to the art of healing. 

“I’m here tonight also because I’m a member of Alpha Omega Alpha and Alpha Omega Alpha is all about excellence,” Cain said. “I wish to emphasize to you that your demonstrated excellence has a price going forward and this burden is responsibility and leadership broadly in the field of medicine. We expect our AOA awardees to become leaders in any way you can. We challenge you with your proven levels of excellence and achievement to throughout your careers constantly work to lead, to learn, to engage, to innovate, to advocate, to educate, and to solve problems relevant to the public.”

Chapter officers inducted the following during the March 15 ceremony:

Medical Students

Class of 2018

  • Julian Patrick Buchinger
  • Bryan Bunnell
  • Athena Chrysoula Castro
  • Laura Easton
  • James Richard Harb
  • Rogerio Huang
  • Kristine Peregrino Lacuna
  • Juliann E. Lajoie
  • Megan L. Lesperance
  • Chong Li
  • Thomas Andrew Makin
  • Alexandra Morell
  • Nicholas Anthony Pantano
  • Mary Sophia Pilarz
  • Mark Hany Shehata
  • Warren Tai
  • Erika L. Valentine

Class of 2019

  • Aarti Agarwal
  • Joel Braverman
  • Dylan G. Constantino
  • Caroline A. Gorka
  • Joelle Nicole Hartke
  • Ryan Michael Hess
  • Austin James Iovoli
  • Eric Michael Jorgensen
  • Matthew J. Kabalan
  • Andrew S. Knapp
  • Ryan Miller
  • Denise Marie Polaski
  • Andrew Sauvageau
  • Jillian P. Smith
  • Irene S. Yu
  • Felipe Jose Zinkewich



This year’s faculty inductee was John J. Bodkin II, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine.

Bodkin, a Western New York native, earned his medical degree from UB in 1976.

He completed his residency at Deaconess Hospital — where he was chief resident — in 1979. He has worked with Highgate Medical Group since completing his residency.

Bodkin is co-chair and founder of the Western New York Medical Scholarship Fund, which was created to help keep more locally trained doctors in Western New York and to help address a physician shortage.

4th-Year Medical Student Delivers Talk on AOA History

James Richard Harb, a fourth-year medical student and one of this year’s AOA initiates, gave the talk about AOA history.

Harb talked about the founding of the society by William Webster Root and five other medical students at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago in 1902.

“Root felt medical students and physicians ought to hold themselves to a higher standard. Indeed the model for the society that he would propose to his classmates and fellow founders — and the motto that AOA still uses today — is ‘worthy to serve the suffering.’ Ahead of their time in multiple respects, the founders were also clear from the beginning that race, color, creed, gender and social standing would never be barriers to membership in their new society,” Harb said.

Harb also noted the responsibility inductees have with being initiated into an organization with such a proud tradition.

“I believe all of us ought to feel very honored to receive the distinction of being inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, but I believe that it is equally exciting and even more meaningful to recognize the legacy that we are becoming a part of and to appreciate the awesome responsibility we are accepting tonight,” Harb said.

James Richard Harb.

James Richard Harb, a fourth-year medical student and one of this year’s AOA initiates, talked about the AOA’s history.

Renowned Expert on Medical Education Gives Lecture

Kenneth M. Ludmerer, MD, professor of medicine, professor of history, Mabel Dorn Reeder Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, gave the AOA Distinguished Lecture on “Reflections on Being a Doctor.”

Ludmerer, the author of three books on American medical education, is a renowned medical historian and educator.

“The thrust of my own career in medical education has been to attempt to defend medical education as a university level professional education and to prevent its devolution into vocational training,” Ludmerer said.

He encouraged the inductees to maintain their curiosity and develop problem solving abilities that will aid them greatly in their careers.

“That’s what doctors really do when practicing the best medicine,” Ludmerer said. “The ability to figure out problems has always been and will remain central to the highest level of medical practice.”

Michael E. Cain, MD; Kenneth M. Ludmerer, MD; Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD.

From left, Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school; Kenneth M. Ludmerer, MD; and Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD, president of the local AOA chapter, pose at the ceremony. Ludmerer gave the AOA Distinguished Lecture.

Ceremony Takes Place at M&T Auditorium

Chapter councilor Frank T. Schimpfhauser, PhD, directs the chapter’s nomination process.

Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD, clinical associate professor of neurology and president of the local AOA chapter, welcomed the new inductees and was master of ceremonies for the event.

In addition to Cain, Schimpfhauser and Silvestri, the ceremony was led by chapter vice president Faye E. Justicia-Linde, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology; and Christopher S. Cohan, PhD, professor of pathology and anatomical sciences.

Also helping with candidate inductions were Chester A. Glomski, MD, professor of pathology and anatomical sciences; Gerald Sufrin, MD, professor and chair of urology; and Linda Wild, MD, clinical associate professor emeritus of pathology and anatomical sciences. Glomski is a former chapter treasurer and secretary, Sufrin is a former chapter president and Wild is a former chapter vice president.

The event took place in the M&T Auditorium of the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building.