2024 Conley Ethics Essay Contest


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. Best essay authors receive a prize of up to $5,000. Authors of the winning essays are 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

At the submission deadline, entrants must be a(n):

  1. US MD or DO student in a LCME- or COCA-accredited school (including in joint degree programs),
  2. Resident physician or fellow in an ACGME- or AOA- accredited program, or
  3. Early career physician who has completed advanced training (which can include a health care ethics, policy or humanities program) within the prior 5 years.

Only entries by individuals are valid. Team entries or entries which reflect the work of more than one individual will be disqualified.

Entries must not have been previously published in print or electronic format and must not have been submitted to any other contest or 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, highlight the essay text only, then 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.

Submission Requirements

Essays must be submitted as one Word document file attached to an e-mail to Mr. Kelly Shaw. The Word document file name must be the Entrant's last name only. All materials must be received by 5 PM central time on 23 September 2024, as marked by email timestamp when received by the AMA. 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.


JJ is a single parent of twins, who is recently unemployed and struggling to cover costs of everyday living. When JJ takes their child to a family medicine physician, Dr P, for the child’s annual physical examination, Dr P asks JJ to complete a form. One question Do you have trouble paying utility bills? makes JJ nervous about answering honestly, due to worry that they will be perceived as incapable of caring well for their child. JJ leaves the response area to this question blank. Dr P notices this but must enter information into the child’s electronic health record as part of the structural determinants of health (SDOH) screening required by Medicaid. Dr P considers how to bring up JJ’s lack of response to this screening question.

Essay Prompt

Since talking about poverty can feel awkward, taboo, or stigmatizing to a child-patient or to a child’s parent or guardian, how should clinicians’ follow-up about responses or nonresponses to mandatory SDOH screening questions?