Medical Ethics & Professionalism


During Year IV, students have the opportunity to research topics of their choosing as part of electives in ethics, professionalism, humanities, faith and medicine, and health policy.  The only requirement for one of these electives is to write a paper, approved in advance by the ethics program director, of at least 3500 words, due one week after the end of the two week elective block.

Topics may relate to the field the student is hoping to enter, and writing a paper prior to interviewing may be an advantage.  Previous papers have included a diverse range of topics, e.g., history of women in medicine, history of anesthesia, ethics and vaccination refusal, physician authors such as Chekov and William Carlos Williams, portraits of medicine in literature, pregnancy as depicted in art, faith and medicine, and many other topics. Some of these papers have been published.

Note that an elective paper does not take the place of the required senior thesis in ethics and professionalism.

Please see the MUSM elective catalogue for more specifics.


Due on March 1 of the senior year is a short paper describing an issue in ethics or professionalism encountered by the student.  Papers must be at least five double-spaced pages in length, must include references, and should provide an analysis of the issues presented, perhaps using a format such as the MUSM Case analysis described in the first year and found among first year resources. Papers from previous years have included such topics as transfusing Jehovah's Witnesses, protecting sexual partners of patients infected with HIV, conflicts among surrogate decision-makers, protecting confidentiality in adolescent patients, and providing access to care among the poor.