Black and Asian medical students are less likely than white medical students to be granted membership to the highly-revered Alpha Omega Alpha (AΩA) honor society, according to the results of a study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers, from Yale School of Medicine, say the finding may be a function of bias selection and may stymie future opportunities for minority medical students.

Principal investigator Dowin Boatright, MD, who is a fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, and colleagues examined the association between race/ethnicity and the likelihood of AΩA membership.

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Prior studies have found inequities in the receipt of academic awards by academic medical center faculty, including promotions and National Institutes of Health research funding.  However, there has been a dearth of research about the association between race/ethnicity and the receipt of academic awards for medical undergraduates.

Dr Boatright’s team looked at a range of medical student characteristics associated with induction into AΩA.

Induction into the society is linked to future success in academic medicine. Notably, several studies have reported that society members are more likely to be accepted into the residency specialty of their choice. Research has also shown a link between AΩA membership and the likelihood of a physician selecting a career in academic medicine and attaining the rank of full professor, dean, or the head of a department. The society’s website says that “Alpha Omega Alpha is to medicine what Phi Beta Kappa is to letters and the humanities and Sigma Xi is to science.”