About Alpha Omega

In The Beginning

Conceived in 1907, the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity is currently celebrating its centennial - one hundred years of progress and achievement!

It all began at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery when a group of Jewish students grouped together in an effort to combat the obvious discrimination that was existent within the school. The group called itself "Theta Ramach" (the Hebrew Resh, Mem, Chet, or 248 representing the number of parts of the human body). Shortly thereafter, and unknown to one another, a similar group was formed at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. Calling itself the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, their prime objective was, again, combating the obvious existent discrimination against the Jewish student.

It became evident that this basic movement opposing the undemocratic treatment of the Jewish student was not exclusive to the east coast. During this same period, similar groups had come into existence at the dental schools in Minneapolis and Illinois.

It was inevitable that the groups in Philadelphia and Baltimore would learn about each other and their similarity of purpose. As a result, negotiations were begun towards consolidation. Final agreement was reached in 1908; they would henceforth be the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity. Theta Ramach would be the first chapter and the group in Baltimore would become the Zeta Mu chapter.

As the reputation of the Alpha Omega Fraternity and its objectives spread, additional chapters across the United States were formed and affiliated with the fraternity. In 1920, with the formation of the Nu chapter in San Francisco, Alpha Omega became truly continental. One year later, 1921, with the formation of the Pi chapter in Toronto, the fraternity attained limited international scope.

During these formative years, alumni chapters were formed consisting of practicing dentists who were Jewish and former members of an undergraduate chapter. In 1912, the New York alumni chapter was formed; the Philadelphia alumni chapter followed in 1916. With the formation of the alumni chapter in Toronto in 1924, the internationalization was now complete within North America. It was with the formation of the Jerusalem chapter in Israel in 1954 that Alpha Omega spanned the Atlantic Ocean and became truly international.

Reaching Out

In the early years the fraternity concerned itself with problems of internal growth and expansion. As it grew, a desire grew to reach out beyond the profession and into the community. This brought into play an ever-increasing interest in the problems and projects which an adult organization could shoulder. Alpha Omega was ready to take on additional responsibilities. In 1938, the world situation created an extreme problem of refugee immigration. In cooperation with agencies such as the National Refugee Service, Alpha Omega assisted refugee dentist in securing entrance to dental schools for additional training, procuring licenses to practice and for resettlement.

With the entrance of Canada into World War II a drive was initiated that enabled AO to purchase and present a mobile dental unit to the Canadian Dental Corps. Following the entrance of the United States into the War, Alpha Omega was able to present three ambulances to the U.S. Army.

In the early part of 1948, following the establishment of Brandeis University as a Jewish sponsored non-sectarian college, the fraternity presented the college with the Alpha Omega Biological Laboratories, making us the school's first corporate contributor.

In 1948 what is probably the largest single undertaking of dental aid in the history of organized dentistry was started by Alpha Omega Fraternity in conjunction with the American Jewish Joint Distribution S.O.S. (Service for Overseas Survivors) Committee. The project provided dental materials, instruments and equipment to the displaced persons camps in Europe.

With the formation of the State of Israel, the attendant devastation of war and the heavy influx of needy people to the new state, Alpha Omega Fraternity supplied two completely-equipped dental offices. In addition, a mobile dental trailer for the children of Tel Aviv was provided.

Alpha Omega, having played a dynamic role in the history of the rehabilitation of the displaced persons of Europe in equipping the Dental Corps of the Israeli Army and in post-war assistance to the dental profession of Israel, was then called upon to continue its efforts and perpetuate its motivating ideals with the establishment of a dental school at Hebrew University.

In 1953, an initial contribution was made toward the opening of a provisional dental school. Finally, in 1964, the completed dental school was dedicated as the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, founded by Alpha Omega Fraternity. A dream had now become a reality. Soon after, Alpha Omega also became a founder of the School of Dental Medicine at Tel-Aviv University.

Achievement Medal Award

It became apparent that there was a need for the fraternity to extend its activities beyond internal affairs. In 1935, the AO International Convention approved the establishment of the Alpha Omega Achievement Medal Award to be presented in recognition of outstanding contributions in the field of dentistry and its allied sciences. Since its inception, this award has been granted to, among others, such outstanding individuals as Isaac Schour, Myron Aisenberg, Selman Waksman, Henry Sicher, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin, Abram Sachar and from within the Alpha Omega Fraternity, D. Walter Cohen and Ronald Goldstein.

In 1946, we saw the first departure from presenting the award to an individual and recognized Alpha Omega's 1800 Service Men who had served in World War II. Hadassah was our Achievement Award recipient in 1966, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 1975 and in 1989 the Achievement Award was bestowed upon the Medical Corp. of the Israeli Defence Forces.

The Alpha Omega Foundation

The delegates in attendance at the 1969 convention unanimously approved the formation of the Alpha Omega Foundation and for the foundation to serve as the philanthropic arm of the fraternity. The basic mission of the foundation was to "Reach out to the needs of dental health, education, research and care throughout the world." Affiliated but independent foundations or trusts are active in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, France and Israel.

A small percentage of each Alpha Omegan?s dues is contributed to the AO Foundation in addition to other contributions which may be received. The foundation is presently engaged in building its financial base to a total of five million dollars. The resulting interest and dividends will permit the foundation to underwrite a greater number of projects.

Among the projects in which the AO Foundation has participated are:

In Conclusion

As we bring our first century of progress and achievement to a close, we look back upon our history, not as a place upon which we rest, but rather as a motivating force which will propel us to even greater achievements in the century ahead.

2012 Alpha Omega Beta Iota Dental Fraternity | denver.ao.org/betaiota/

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