AMA Journal of Ethics

Formerly Virtual Mentor

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics

Formerly Virtual Mentor

Illuminating the art of medicine

2015 Conley Ethics Essay Contest Scenario

Robert graduated from college magna cum laude and with decent MCAT scores and was admitted to medical school. He did well during his preclinical years. When he began clerkships, however, Robert was not able to answer the questions residents asked during morning rounds, seemed unable to keep up with patient care duties, and did not pass. Despondent over the failure, Robert asked for and was granted a month-long leave of absence. He returned, performed well during his first clerkship, and passed. He did not pass the following clerkship.

At this point, Robert went to the associate dean of student affairs and explained that he had a learning disability that he had not told them about during the admission process, and that he needed to spend more time learning the knowledge component of the clinical clerkships before being on the unit. He explained that, because he was so worried about not having all the facts he needed, he was unable to engage with the patients the way his classmates did. During his two preclinical years, Robert said, he had spent every waking hour studying—on week days and weekends—in order to maintain good grades and that he had done the same throughout his college years. He asked to have a month off prior to each clerkship to gain the knowledge base needed for that particular core field.

The associate dean said that he would ask the student advisory board for their recommendation. This board reviewed student problems such as allegations of cheating or unprofessional behavior and student requests for accommodations and exemptions based on personal or academic needs. Recommendations of the student advisory board were not binding, but the associate dean told them, "You folks know the demands of the clerkship and how you manage to integrate the knowledge and patient care aspects of the learning environment. You are in a better place than the administration to consider whether Robert's request is (a) fair to the rest of the class, (b) fair to Robert and, (c) fair to his future patients."

Instructions for Submission of Essays

Currently enrolled US medical students are eligible to submit essays for consideration. Author of the winning essay will receive $5,000. Essays must be 2,000 words or fewer, excluding references. They must be typed and double-spaced, with the author’s name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and medical school and class on a cover sheet—not on the essay pages; authors will be anonymous to the judges. Essays must be received as one e-mail attachment in Word, using the author’s last name as the filename. Authors of winning essays must be willing to revise their essays for publication in the AMA Journal of Ethics. Entries must be submitted by 5 pm CDT, September 30, 2015 to Kelly Shaw at kelly.shaw@ama-assn.org. More information about the Conley Ethics Essay Contest.