Holt Bioethics Essay Award for Medical Students

Call for Submissions: Essays due to humanities@uthscsa.edu by 8:00 a.m., Monday, Janurary 6, 2020.

Monetary Awards

  • 1st Place – $1,000
  • 2nd Place – $300
  • 3rd Place – $200

This prestigious annual award includes a cash prize recognizing the best essay by a UT Health San Antonio medical student on a bioethics topic. The essay topic will be chosen by the medical student, and all submitted essays will be assessed by a panel of health care ethicists and knowledgeable physicians. All medical students are eligible, and the prompts are provided merely to stimulate ideas. No special preference will be given to essays that follow these prompts as opposed to a completely original topic.

First, a definition is in order:  What is Bioethics? Bioethics is a branch of applied ethics that studies the philosophical, social and legal issues arising in medicine and the life sciences. It is chiefly concerned with human life and well-being.

In the course of practicing medicine, physicians often encounter tension between their duties to individual patients and to society (e.g., concern for public health or public/professional norms).

Select one of the following topics and write an essay that identifies and illuminates – through examples, data, case studies, and informed moral reasoning – how physicians should discharge their ethical responsibilities to both the individual patient and to society.

Prompts you may consider:

  • Artificial intelligence is increasingly used in healthcare to understand and improve population health, institutional practices, and clinical decision-making. While the power of computers and neural networks to identify and interpret patterns in large data systems can transform healthcare, some authors and advocates have raised ethical concerns related to privacy, bias, and humanity. What role should physicians play in identifying and managing ethical concerns related to the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare?
  •  Parents often make decisions, such as refusing vaccines, that contradict their physicians’ advice, and may put the health of kids and their community at risk. What ethical considerations should inform physicians’ response to such decisions?
  • Transgender children and teens are at high risk for death by suicide. Gender-affirming care has been shown to be effective at preventing teen suicide. However, some aspects of gender care for trans adolescents affect the shape of a child’s body and even their fertility for life. How can the medical community determine which aspects of gender care should be offered to trans adolescents?
  • Medical students frequently witness (or experience) bias based on race, gender, ability status, nationality and other factors in the health care setting. However, students’ lower status on health care teams may affect their ability to respond ethically to bias. How can the medical community empower students to respond ethically to bias in health care settings?

The essays will be judged on the following rubric:

Criterion Possible Points
Applicability of topic/Educational value to health care professionals Identification of ethical issues in topic 15
Shows how topic relates to health care 15
SUBTOTAL 30
Quality of writing Uses proper grammar & spelling 7
Writes clearly 7
Cites resources 6
SUBTOTAL 20
Comprehension of issues Demonstrates knowledge of chosen topic 8
Provides evidence to support thesis & arguments 8
Draws appropriately on external resources 7
Demonstrates original thought (rather than just restating what others have said) 7
SUBTOTAL 30
Clarity of discussion & conclusions Shows a clear logical flow of argumentation (e.g. thesis; arguments; supporting evidence) 7
Stays on topic 6
Makes a logical conclusion for action, thought, or research 7
SUBTOTAL 20
TOTAL 100