The Benjamin E. Mays Medal
The Benjamin E. Mays Medal award was established during Mays’ lifetime, and he was the inaugural recipient of the award in 1982. It the highest alumni award of the college and is presented to an alumna or alumnus who has performed distinguished service to the larger (worldwide) community and been deemed a Bates graduate of outstanding accomplishment. It is an occasional award that has been presented only 16 times.
In 2017, President A. Clayton Spencer presented the award to Edward J. O’Neil Jr. ’82 during Reunion Weekend.
As a fourth-year medical student at George Washington University, Ed made his first foray into global health care, working in a mission hospital in Tanzania. Inspired by his experience, he spent the next seven years seeking a way back to East Africa.
Ed completed his residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital, becoming Chief Medical Resident along the way. After paying off his medical school loans, he bought a plane ticket and made his way to Kenya. While treating patients in all manner of medical conditions and crises in Nairobi’s Nazareth Hospital, the gears began to turn as Ed conceptualized a guide for other doctors seeking global health opportunities.
Awakening Hippocrates: A Primer on Health, Poverty, and Global Service, and A Practical Guide to Global Health Service, published in 2006 by the American Medical Association, are the culmination of more than a decade of Ed’s research and experiences. Along the way, he also established Omni Med: an organization putting theory into practice as Ed and his colleagues seek solutions to insufficiencies and crises in health and health education across the world.
The organization tackles a full spectrum of health issues, from community prevention that may include clean water access and insect control, to training medical personnel and placing doctors in hospitals. While Omni Med’s commitment to the betterment of medicine on a global scale is the main focus, the team also records, analyzes, and reports data — something few organizations had been doing before.
His work has taken him to nearly every corner of the globe. The highlight reel includes a three-year Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship as well as invitations to global health initiative advisory boards, such as the Hingham Rotary Club’s medical equipment donation program in Belize and the Brookings Institution’s International Volunteering and Service Initiative on the health workforce shortage in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through his service worldwide, he has left lasting impact through designing and providing vital health care and health education programming.
Since 2009, the focus of Omni Med has been its Uganda Community Empowerment in Health program. Kick-started by Ed’s partnership with the Brookings Institution, his enterprise seeks to bolster staffing in Uganda’s health care sector by encouraging medical professionals from the U.S. to train Ugandan community health workers, as well as coordinate the construction of protected water sources and clean cookstoves, and the installation of insecticide-treated nets.
The program even has an active Bates component. Ed has Brielle Antonelli ’18, a Purposeful Work intern, providing administrative and web support at his office in Massachusetts. In August, fellow alumna Christina Stiles ’15 will be serving as a research and strategic coordinator for Omni Med in Uganda.
Ed has served as president of Omni Med since its founding, and continues to work as a practicing emergency physician at Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, as well as an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and former adjunct faculty at George Washington University School of Medicine.
Ed, your longtime dedication to the betterment of global health systems epitomizes Bates’ “commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world.” You have made it your life’s mission not only to recognize and repair the great inequities present in global health, but to motivate others to follow suit. It is an honor to present to you the Benjamin Elijah Mays Medal.