The first step towards the creation of the Alpha Chapter of AOA in South Carolina was taken in 1950, when a group headed by Dr. Kenneth Lynch, then President of the Medical College of South Carolina, wrote to AOA requesting the creation of the local chapter. The impulse behind the creation of our chapter was provided by a group of faculty members who were elected to AOA from their respective medical schools: Kenneth M. Lynch, President and Professor of Pathology, University of Texas, 1910; Vince Moseley, Professor of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, 1936; Frederick W. Kinard, Associate Professor of Physiology, University of Tennessee, 1945; Kelly T. McKee, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia, 1941; Henry W. Mayo, Jr., Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Virginia, 1940; and John C. Hawk, Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Virginia, 1942. The rank listed is associated with those faculty members in 1953, and many went on to hold high leadership roles at the Medical University and around the country.
Dr. Kenneth M. Lynch (1887-1974)
An early group of members was elected in 1952 and the chapter was formally installed in March 20, 1953. The installation exercises were held at the Fort Sumter hotel, near the White Point gardens (currently is a condominium building). The President of the Medical College of South Carolina at that time, Kenneth M. Lynch, M.D., LL.D., presided over the ceremony. John T. Cuttino, M.D., Dean of the Medical School, accepted the charter from Walter L. Bierring, M.D., National President of Alpha Omega Alpha. Josiah J. Moore, M.D., National Secretary of AOA, presented the first set of keys and certificates to the newly elected initiates, and read the charge to the chapter. Major General George E. Armstrong, M.D., Surgeon General of the Department of the Army, Washington, DC, presented the installation address. Dr. Armstrong spoke on the developments in military medicine in the Korean front.
In the Installation meeting the following charter members were recognized:
- Mylnor Wilbur Beach, Professor of Pediatrics
- Theodore George Bernthal, Professor of Physiology
- Ben Harold Boltjes, Professor of Bacteriology & Preventive Medicine
- John Alfred Boone, Professor of Medicine
- John Tindal Cuttino, Dean and Professor of Pathology
- William Mellen McCord, Professor of Chemistry
- Frederick Evert Kredel, Professor of Surgery
- Lester Arnaud Wilson, Professor Obstetrics
Alumni, Class of 1952
- John Gavin Appleby
- Hugh Thomas Barton
- James Elijah Carson
- Walton Lane Ector
- Willam Earle Fender, Jr.
- George Leigh Irwin
- Joseph Vernon Jeffords
- William Curtis Pearcy
- Jack Elbert Raybourne
Students, Class of 1953
- James Arthur Dunlap, Jr.
- William Elford Sims, Jr.
- Jack Byron Williams
Student initiates elected as regular members that year were:
- John Durante Asmore, Jr. (53)
- William Forney Dukes (53)
- Howard Binning Norton (53)
- Henry Biemann Othersen, Jr. (53)
- Joseph Aaron Plyler, III (54)
- Cecil Casper Ram (54)
- Cyril Berwyn Rush (53)
- Julian Alexander Salley (53)
- Fairey Gwendolyn Stone (Connor) (54)
The record shows that Dr. Vince Moseley was the first councilor of our chapter from 1953 to 1954. Dr. Moseley was succeeded Dr. Henry W. Mayo (1955-56), Dr. Kelly McKee (1957-58). Dr. John T. Cuttino and Dr. Harold S. Pettit shared the position in the years 1959 to 1961 and were succeeded by Dr. Harold R. Pratt-Thomas (1962), Dr. William M. McCord (1963), Dr. Harold Pettit (1964-65), Dr. Kelly McKee (1965-70), Dr. Peter C. Gazes (1971-73), and Dr. B. Lewis Barnett (1974-76). When Dr. Barnett stepped down as councilor in 1977, Dr. Biemann Othersen took the lead, and was councilor for approximately 14 years and was succeded by Dr. Gabriel Virella, who was cpuncillor for 13 years. After Dr. Virella's retirement Dr. Steven Schabel was elected councillor, and in 2009, Dr. Pelic, the current Councillor, succeeded Dr. Schabel.
From left to right, Drs. Moseley, Mayo, McKee, Cuttino and Pettit
From left to right, Drs. Pratt-Thomas, McCord, Gazes, and Barnett
Recent AOA councillors, from left to right: Drs. Othersen, Virella, Schabel, and Pelic
It is reported that the AOA chapter of today is much different from the chapter as it was in it's first few decades. Originally, it was basically run by the faculty members, and met only once per year for the annual banquet. The banquet at that time was a very formal affair. According to Dr. Othersen, in the "Old Days" the chapter was a social organization that met once per year holding the banquet to induct the newly elected members. "It was a drinking, rowdy affair." Dr. Curry tried to organize things and create momentum among the members, but to not much avail. When Dr. Othersen took office, he tried to encourage the students to run the organization; gradually moving it towards its present day activities. In the past few years the chapter has become involved in numerous community projects, including support to one of the Outreach missions in the low country area. AOA members have collaborated with the Outreach mission in Health Screening clinics, toy collections, and children's parties for underprivileged children. The chapter provided the mission with funds necessary for the purchase of office and dental equipment. Later, the chapter supported teh Jenkins Institute for Children (the succesor of the Jenkins Orpahnage, home of a renowned set of touring bands in the first quarter of the 20th century, craddle of many celebrated jazz musicians). AOA sudents organized career days, chrirtmas parties, trips to sporting events, and raised funds for the purchase of a poassenger band for the chidren of the Jenkins The chapter obtained national recognition in 1998, when it received a second place award in the competition for Chapter of the Year sponsored by the parent organization. Also in 1998, Dr. Virella, was named Region 5 Councilor. AOA's Region 5 includes MUSC, Eastern Tennessee State University College of Medicine, University of South Carolina College of Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, and Emory University School of Medicine. In 1999 Dr. Virella was elected to AOA's Board of Directors.
In the past, the chapter elected its members strictly on the basis of grade point average and rank in class. Today, many more considerations go into the selection of members, such as community service/volunteerism and outside activities by the students that benefit the College of Medicine, the University and the community as a whole. A committe formed by Dr. Gabriel Virella , Dr. Richard Silver, Dr. Bieman Othersen, Dr. Phil Privitera, Dr. Paul Underwood, Dr. Stephen Schabel, and Peter Grayson elaborated an election formula that takes in consideration the candidate's academic performance, community service, leadership skills, and number of votes received at the election meeting. This formula was approved by the mebership and introduced in 2004, and with further refinements it remains in place for election of our chapter's members. It is noted that at the beginning of the chapter's one single woman was elected - Fairey Gwendolyn Stone. Today, the roster of 2012-13 student members includes 40% women.
One major development in the history of our Chapter was a significant monetary bequest from Dr. Thomas Antley Pitts, M.D. Dr. Pitts had a long association with the Medical College of South Carolina. He served on the Board for 36 years, and was Chairman of the Board for 25 years. Dr. Oliver Williamson, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, played a significant role in obtaining the AOA bequest. At an AOA meeting presided by Drs. Othersen, Roof and Williamson it was decided to apply the bequeathed funds to a Visiting Professorship program, whose aim was to "bring in the luminaries of medicine" to our Medical University. The bequest has continued to be applied to support Visiting Professors up to the present. Currently, the AOA Chapter sponsors two Visiting Professors annually, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. In 1999 the chapter decided to honor Dr. Pitts memory by presenting for the first time the Thomas Antley Pitts AOA Award. The award is a certificate for $200 towards medical books and is presented to the two top ranking freshmen at the end of the Spring semester, of the prior year. In addition, in 2003 a scholarship named in honor of Drs. Pitts and Hugh Aiken, was approved by the membership. The scholarship was attribted on the based of academic and service achievenments prior to entering the COM, and it was requirted that the recipients maintained AOA eligibility by ranking in thew top 25% of their class. The initial scholarship was for $8000.00/year. Ken Byrd was the first recipient of the scholarship; he was elected to AOA as a junior and became chapter president in 2006.
In 2002, the chapter celebrated its 50th Anniversary. A committee, chaired by Dr. Biemann Othersen, was formed to develop and coordinate special activities for the celebration. The remaining members of that committee are: Drs. Henry Rittenberg, Walton Ector, Gabriel Virella, and Oliver Williamson, assisted by a group of AOA student members including Will Lowrance, Bryce Nelson, Robert Coffee, William Crymes, Christie Smith, Katie Hoeft, Peter Grayson, Natalie Massie, Rachel Peck, Stewart Knoep, and Frank Ingram. Mrs. Sue Wetherholt provided administrativbe support to the committee. A gala at Charleston Place. the premier hotel in Charlestopn, marked this event. Our guest of honor was the late Dr. Edward D. Harris, Jr, MD, Executive Secretary of National Alpha Omega Alpha and Editor of The Pharos at the time.
The 50th Anniversary Gala. The top right panel shows the Charleston Place staircase with attending AOA members. In the top left panel, second from the right is Katie Hoeft, Will Lowrance, Vice President, Robert Coffeee, Secretary, Bryce Nelson, President, Ashley Duckett, Christie Smith, and Dr. Ted Harris. In lower left panel the Councillor, Dr. Virella and Bryce Nelson flank Ms. Sue Wetherholt, the Chapter's Executive Administrator. The lower right panel shows the two sides of a commemorative medallion distributed to all members that attended the gala.
Many thanks to H. Biemann Othersen, Jr., M.D. for his recollection of the early days of our chapter, and for his many contributions to the organization over the years. A special thank you is extended to Kelly T. McKee, M.D., Professor of Medicine, for the donation of his original copy of the program from the first installation, to Dr. Henry Rittenberg for his diligence in obtaining copies of original records kept in the central office of AOA, to Debbie Lancaster, from central office, for looking up the names of all our Councillors, and to Dr. Walton Ector for keeping us all straight.