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Delta Omega


By Gerard J. Shorb, Johns Hopkins University

Part 8: Conclusion

Delta Omega has had an impressive record of accomplishment despite encountering problems along the way. One of the problems the Society had in its early years at Alpha Chapter was that it did not receive much institutional support from the schools administration. As a result of this, the chapter only had a precarious existence. The members of the Society, except for a few faculty members, simply were not in any one place long enough for the local chapters to grow strong. The national leadership was not able to overcome this limitation, given the distance between them and the local members. The new leaders of Alpha Chapter seemed to have realized this in 1978. They worked to institutionalize the operations of the chapter, including the process of membership selection, event coordination and scheduling. The School did this by providing staff support on a continuing basis and by providing some small financial assistance. Much of the credit for this goes to former Dean Donald A. Henderson. This notion of providing institutional support to Delta Omega has contributed greatly to its success.

Another problem experienced by the Alpha Chapter was that, early on, there was no standard form of grading students as there is today. As a result, there always was a certain arbitrariness in the process of electing new students to the Society by a vote. The charter members tried to avoid this by having the faculty appoint the chapter members based on scholastic achievement. The Director of the school, Doctor Welch, however, would not agree to this. The whole problem was alleviated to some degree when the School began a uniform system of grading in September of 1976. Alpha Chapter re-activated two years later.

The lasting impression of Delta Omega's history is of the noble ideals of the Society and of the group of founders that began it. These were serious men and women who cared about the work they were doing. They were committed to the advancement of the profession they had chosen. Co-founder Edgar Hume understood this kind of commitment and, in his 1942 historical article, he quoted John Sundwall's 1939 Presidential Report to the Society. Sundwall wrote that, "membership in the Society of Delta Omega should not be regarded solely as an honor in recognition of past achievements in the field of Public Health. It should mean life-long obligations and devotion to the interests of public health in accordance with the ideals of Delta Omega. It should imply zest for erudition, as measured in terms of scholarship and research and constant effort to be in the vanguard of the modern public health movement as manifested by intelligent, considered, constructive action and effective leadership. Election to Delta Omega should be regarded as a consecration to quality work and to high standards in all those interests and activities making up modern public health."53