Published April 3, 2019
Twenty-three medical students, three residents and three faculty members have joined the University at Buffalo’s chapter of the national honor medical society Alpha Omega Alpha.
Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, opened the ceremony.
“Election into Alpha Omega Alpha is the single highest honor a medical student can obtain, so the school of medicine is extremely proud of all of our inductees,” said Cain. “I am a member of AOA, and I can tell you that it is all about excellence. I wish to emphasize to all of you that you have demonstrated excellence so far in your career,” he said.
Cain noted that with excellence comes a calling to leadership. The University at Buffalo and members of AOA expect inductees to be leaders, he said. “We challenge you throughout your careers to lead, to always learn, to engage, to innovate, to advocate, to educate and to solve problems,” he said.
Chapter officers inducted the following medical students and residents during the March 14 ceremony:
This year, three faculty members were initiated into the AOA:
“This year is the first that we as a chapter are inducting an alumni member. I am very happy and honored to announce that it’s Dr. David Milling,” said the president of the local AOA chapter, Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD, clinical associate professor of neurology.
Milling oversees all undergraduate medical school operations, including admissions, multicultural affairs and cultural competency, student services, registrar services, student disciplinary matters and the clinical skills and simulation centers. He teaches medical students, and he is the program director for the Science and Technology Entry Program and director of the AMSNY/SMBS Post-Baccalaureate Program. Additionally, he is a primary care physician and sees patients through UBMD Internal Medicine.
Inductee Gregory Cherr, MD, is assistant dean for graduate medical education, as well as an associate professor of surgery. He oversees the clinical learning environment for residents and fellows at Buffalo General Medical Center, and he is a core faculty member for the Jacobs School’s faculty educator program, which was developed in partnership with the Royal College of Physicians in London. Previously, Cherr has served as the surgery clerkship director and the general surgery program director. He was one of six medical educators nationwide to receive an Arnold P. Gold Foundation scholarship in 2011 to attend the Harvard Macy Institute, and he currently serves on the faculty for the Harvard Macy Health Professions Educators Course. Cherr is the chair-elect for the Gold Humanism Honor Society. A fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Cherr is a board-certified general and vascular surgeon with expertise in vascular and endovascular surgery. He sees patients through UBMD Surgery.
In addition to serving in the Office of Medical Curriculum, Sheehan is an instructor for the Jacobs School’s faculty educator program and is director of the Office of Accreditation and Quality Improvement. Sheehan, who sees patients through UBMD Pediatrics, specializes in pediatric pulmonology. He oversees clinical, teaching and research activity related to evaluating and treating infants, children and young adults with pulmonary diseases. He has research expertise in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Connor P. Arquette, a fourth-year medical student and one of this year’s inductees, delivered an address about the AOA’s history and its founder, William Webster Root.
Arquette described Root’s endeavors in the early 20th century to raise the standards for medical education and ennoble the profession of medicine, which at the time was practiced by unprofessional and poorly prepared physicians.
He noted that while researching the AOA’s history, he had opportunities to reflect on what membership in the society means to him, and the value that Root placed on leadership is what resonated strongly.
Arquette gave examples of AOA members who have been influential leaders, and he asked his fellow inductees to bear in mind that they, too, must be leaders. “There’s no hiding the set of challenges that face medicine today,” he said. “It’s going to be up to our generation to find solutions to these complex problems. I am confident that the group of people in this room will be capable of answering the call.”
During his address, Arquette, who will begin a residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Stanford University, cited wisdom passed along from Jacobs School faculty: “One of my mentors at UB preaches an idea he likes to refer to as ‘surgery plus.’ He says that not only do we need to be great clinical surgeons, but we need an additional skill set outside of medicine as the world of health care transforms ... with the point being that we need physicians to be leading the charge and change. This doesn’t just apply to surgery. It applies to all areas of medicine.”
Arquette congratulated his fellow fourth-year students on their impending graduation, and he offered words of support to the third-year students at the ceremony, urging them to push through the final-year challenges of medical school. AOA members and other Jacobs School graduates will be “only a phone call or an email away,” he reminded them. “You don’t ever have to feel like you’re going through it alone.”
Arquette closed his speech by encouraging his fellow AOA inductees to be humanistic physicians. “Whether it be a patient, a friend, a loved one or stranger, may we continuously strive to make them feel empowered, dignified and respected. And let us all be a living example of the AOA motto: Be worthy to serve the suffering.”
Inspired by an article she recently read in the New England Journal of Medicine, Nielsen emphasized: “Life shapes us. But we must shape our environments as much as they have shaped us.”
She provided examples of physicians who worked to shape their own environments and engender change, including:
Nielsen also referenced her own experiences. In one anecdote, she described working with a resident who proposed an imaginative and successful solution to help communicate with a pediatric patient. The patient couldn’t see, hear or speak; touch was the main sense through which she could interact with the care providers. So the resident suggested that the care team soothe her unconventionally via touch, using a vibrating device on her face and arms.
“I give you that innovative, creative example to say: Personalize what you do. You can lead, whether it is one patient at a time or not,” said Nielsen.
Additionally, her talk covered national challenges, including:
“You don’t have to wait until you are FDA commissioner, or AMA president or medical school dean. You can change your environment as much as it changes you,” she said. “I call on you to lead and to act — even if it takes some heroic action.”
During the ceremony, Silvestri took a moment to recognize students involved in the Jacobs School Alpha Omega Alpha Leadership Track, a student-developed program that enables medical students to foster self-awareness and cultivate fundamental leadership skills.
Several posters were displayed outside the M&T Auditorium, where the induction ceremony took place. “These are projects completed by the students involved in this track, and I am incredibly proud of these projects as they are very impactful,” said Silvestri.
The grant that initially funded the track — which also funded UB Heals — was a Medical Student Service Leadership Project Grant awarded by AOA. The grant proposal was completely written by students with faculty mentorship, noted Silvestri.
“It’s been an honor to work with students on this track. All are to be congratulated for being involved in this track. However, I’d like to mention a few names of those students who have been seminal in putting this track together, as well as writing this grant,” he said, naming 14 students:
Further, Silvestri congratulated students Max Blumberg, Moudi Hubeishy and Mattie R. Rosi-Schumacher for completing the requirements necessary to earn the leadership track’s digital badge.
In addition to Silvestri, who welcomed the new inductees and was master of ceremonies for the event, the ceremony was led by members of the chapter’s advisory committee:
The University at Buffalo is internationally recognized as a leader in education, research and patient care, with a long history of excellence in medical education that began in 1846. We have achieved this recognition by blending academic excellence, exceptional bedside clinical teaching and thoughtful innovation designed to meet the changing needs of future clinical practitioners.
Our Residency and Fellowship Programs offer physicians-in-training outstanding opportunities to learn from clinicians who are among the best in their fields.