Established by the John Conley Foundation for Ethics and Philosophy in Medicine, this annual essay contest has been administered by the AMA Journal of Ethics since 2004. 

Each spring, the AMA Journal of Ethics poses a question in ethics and professionalism as the topic for the contest. Essays are judged on clarity of writing, responsiveness to questions posed in the essay prompt, and applicability to decisions presented in the case. The author of the best essay receives a prize of $5,000. The author of the winning essay is typically contacted within six weeks of the submission deadline and must be willing, if needed, to revise the essays at the request of AMA Journal of Ethics editorial staff in order to have the work published in the journal.

Please visit here for more detailed information about contest rules.

Eligibility Requirements

Currently enrolled US medical (MD) students and osteopathic (DO) students, resident physicians, or fellows in ACGME-accredited or AOA-accredited programs are eligible to submit entries. Entries are original works that must not have been previously published in print or electronic format and must not have been submitted to any other publication.

Format Requirements

Essays must not exceed 1,500 words, excluding references. Essays must be submitted by a single author in Times New Roman 12 with 1.5 spacing.

Cover Page Requirements

The first page of the single Word document file must be the cover page, which must include the author’s name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, medical school (and year in medical school) or specialty training program (and year in training program), as well as the word count of the essay (excluding cover page and references), which must be tabulated as follows: In Word, on the Review tab in the Proofing group, click the Word Count icon or use Ctrl+Shift+G. This information must be included on the cover page only; essays including the author’s name on other pages of the essay will not be reviewed. If an Entrant’s contact information changes after submission, it is the Entrant’s responsibility to provide updated contact information to the Administrator. Administrator disclaims any responsibility to update Entrant contact information.

Submission Requirements

Essays must be submitted in a Microsoft Word document file attached to an e-mail to Mr. Kelly Shaw. The title of the Microsoft Word document file name must be the Entrant's last name only. All materials must be received by 5 PM central time on 22 September 2023, as marked by electronic timestamp when received by the Administrator. Authors who have waited even until 4:55 PM, for example, to submit materials have occasionally been disappointed, due to transmission delays, so please plan accordingly.


Cardiologist and scientist Dr J oversees a federally funded cardiac anti-arrhythmic pharmacologic research lab in a well-known academic health center. Dr J teaches in many of the health sciences programs of the university, often invited to lecture on topics ranging from research ethics to animal research protocol design to pharmacology to cardiac pathophysiology. Dr J is especially known among students for their lecture on how mid-21st Century animal rights campaigns informed passage of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.

Dr J’s team’s protocols have always adhered to federal animal care and use guidelines and Dr J served for many years on the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Dr J’s team’s research remains a controversial point of tension, however, between animal rights activists and patient advocacy groups, whose presence is always visible to students.

Dr J’s team’s research requires induction of cardiac arrhythmias in source-bred dogs. Anti-arrhythmic pharmacologic agents are then administered to the dogs and those agents’ cardiac effects in the dogs are observed over time, sometimes until their deaths. Over the course of a typical study, many dogs experience cardiac arrest and painful gastrointestinal and pulmonary side effects of the pharmacologic agents.

Protesters, usually animal rights activists, and counter protestors have long gathered with signs, pamphlets, and bullhorns outside the campus’s known research facilities. Counter protesters are usually patients and patient advocates, including children and parents of children with congenital heart conditions that predispose them to cardiac arrhythmias. Protesters’ signs often show photographs of live mammals, presumably animals just like those used in research on campus, connected to invasively placed tubes and devices. Slogans like, “Research is not ‘care’! IACUCs are sham federal covers for animal cruelty!” are commonly seen on signs.

Students in Dr J’s lectures sometimes ask Dr J about protesters’ messages and question whether IACUC requirements are enough protection for research animals’ welfare.

Dr J considers how to respond.

Essay Prompt

If clinician scientists can advance human-centered health science without complicity in speciesism, according to which criteria should we determine whether and when IACUCs are sufficient for protecting the welfare of animals used in research?