Dr. John Barker, an American citizen, but whose mother is Argentine, studied Medicine at the National University of Cordoba (1979-1984) after which he returned to the USA where he settled in Louisville (1990). Recognizing how important his experience studying medicine in Cordoba had been to him, he wanted to do something to give back to the University. He thought of establishing a scholarship program to give Argentine medical students the opportunity to travel abroad and experience how medicine is done in another country. He wanted to make sure that the scholarships were awarded fairly, based on academic ability, so he contacted one of his favorite former professors, Dr. Norberto Allende, and asked him for his assistance.
At the time, Dr. Allende was the Dean of the UNC Medical School and together with his colleague, Dr. Pedro Saracho Cornet, they worked with Dr. Barker to establish a selection process based on a written exam to assess academic performance. They recruited UNC faculty who taught subjects in the first 3 years of the medical school (Basic Cycle) organizing a yearly event that they called Academic Olympics for Medical Students (AOMS). The AOMS would invite students who had completed their Basic Cycle, and who had maintained an overall grade point average above 7, to participate in the competition. For more information on the original AOMS requirements drafted in 1991 see the following link.
The first AOMS events were organized by Prof. Dr. Marta Fiol de Cuneo, Rubén D. Ruiz, Hilda Montrull, Emilio Olivares, Atilio Palma, Miguel E. Estofán, Abel A. Vaca, Aldo O. Lódolo, Moisés Jalil, Patricia Paglini de Oliva, Sofía Parisi de Fabro, Nelia Gerez de Burgos and Rubén Zambuelli (UCC). From the outset, and for the ensuing 18 years, Mr. Mario Eder Peralta served as the Events' Secretary and Treasurer. Over the years, additional organizers have joined, some of these include Professors: Mónica Moya, Sergio Blencio, Graciela Stutz, Laura Vincenti, David Cremonezzi, Carlos Sánchez Carpio, Nori Tolosa de Talamoni, Adolfo Vidal, Mariana Tarán, Noemí Miller, Silvia González, Gabriela Díaz de Barbosa and Alejandro Daín. We mention all of these individuals, as well as many not listed, as a way of recognizing and thanking them for all their commitment and perseverance over the years. Their hard work has helped to maintain the spirit of its founders, i.e. to recognize and celebrate academic achievement in medical students. The AOMS also gives students an opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge with professors and their peers from other medical schools throughout Argentina.
To fund the scholarship program, Dr. Barker wrote letters to 350 doctors in the United States, who had studied Medicine at UNC, and asked them for their support. Approximately half responded positively and thus, working with other UNC graduates living in the US, the scholarship program was started, and they called it "The Voice of the Exterior". In addition to awarding scholarships to medical students the program also provided assistance to Argentine hospitals in need
At the beginning the AOMS consisted of a one-day program held at the UNC medical school, but soon participants from other public universities around the country were invited to join and the program grew into a full weekend event. For several years the weekend AOMS event has been held at a hotel resort in the city of La Falda, in the mountains of Cordoba.
In addition to the academic exams on Saturday morning, the weekend AOMS has grown to include other activities that promote student interactions, like walks, sports, and a debate about different topics, including the one at the "Dean's Forum".
Those who score the highest on the academic exam are awarded a variety of different prizes, which include scholarships for exchange rotations abroad at Yale (USA) and Goethe (Germany) Universities, UNC trophies and metals, books, and electronic devices, all donated by AOMS sponsors (UNC Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences Foundation, Hemoderivatives Laboratory, the Argentine Diabetes Society - headquartered in Cordoba, Doctors and Biochemist Commission of the Province of Cordoba). In addition to these prizes, in recent years the companies Ledesma and Arcor have joined as sponsors and donate notebooks and chocolates to winners. The following link lists the winners over the past 25 years.
From 1991, for 10 years, scholarships were provided by donations from the Voice of the Exterior. Then, after a gap until 2014, when contact was reestablished with Dr. Barker, the scholarship program was reinitiated. Dr. Barker currently lives and runs a medical research institute called FIRM at the Goethe University, where AOMS award winners can spend their exchange rotation.
In 2016, for the first time, Dr. John Barker attended the AOMS event where he joined in on the festivities celebrating its 25th year anniversary. He made a presentation in which he shared with students his experiences as a medical student in Cordoba, and his subsequent journey as a scientist/physician in Germany and then in the United States where his research led to the first human hand and face transplants.
The 25 year anniversary celebration was a joyous occasion with the participation of the Dean of the UNC Medical School, Dr. Marcelo Yorio on the opening day, Friday. Over the weekend Dr. Pedro Saracho Cornet and Dr. Barker participated in various activities and then, on Sunday, in the Closing Ceremony, Dr. Norberto Allende, Dr. Marta Fiol de Cuneo (the Vice Dean of the Medical School), Dr. Nelly Barrionuevo Colombres (the Academic Secretary), and the Academic Sub Secretary of Graduate Health Studies, Prof. Dr. Jorge Paván, all joined the celebration.
In its 25 years if existence, students from the Universities of Rosario, La Rioja, Mendoza, Comahue, Buenos Aires, Tucumán, Corrientes and Córdoba have participated in the AOMS. In addition to its academic focus, the AOMS is an intense few days of friendship and camaraderie where students and professors from different universities have an opportunity to interact and share each others' realities, discussing their respective career plans, benefits and drawbacks of their institutions, post graduate training opportunities, specialties, etc.
The original spirit upon which AOMS was established, the celebrating of academic excellence and rewarding students who strive to improve themselves every day continues today. Going forward the work continues, with a special emphasis on expanding and spreading this spirit to additional universities throughout Argentina.
La ediciÃ³n XXVI se realizarÃ¡ del 22 al 24 de septiembre de 2017, en la localidad de La Falda - CÃ³rdoba. Inscribite para participar!
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La ediciÃ³n XXV reuniÃ³ a los 3 mentores de este evento: Prof. Dres. John Barker, Norberto Allende y Pedro Saracho Cornet.
Durante el acto de cierre de la EdiciÃ³n XXV, se entregaron certificados de "Miembros Honorarios" y regalos institucionales a los Prod. Dres.: John Barker, Pedro Saracho Cornet, Norberto Allende y Marta Fiol de Cuneo, en reconocimiento a las funciones que cada uno desempeÃ±Ã³ para favorecer la creaciÃ³n de esta actividad.