MD Program

Contact the Writing and Humanities Program

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Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2600
Phone:(319) 335-8058
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  • Robert D. Sparks Writing Contest

    Medicine Explored In Context

    The purpose of this contest is to examine the influences of history, ethics, culture, literature, philosophy, sociology, or related frameworks on medicine, the practice of medicine, and the human condition.

    2014 Winners

    Visit the archive of past winners

    History, Ethics, Culture: their influences on medicine and its practice

    Sparks imageTwo $1,200 awards will be given to the best submissions that examine a significant issue in medicine using ethical, historical, or cultural perspectives. This competition is open to all medical students and physician assistant students enrolled in the UI Carver College of Medicine.  In order to maximize the value of the award, and to be consistent with UI financial policies, the award will be applied as financial aid to reduce your student loan debt (if you are a student receiving full financial aid) or it may be used to help support professional development such as conference registration/travel to a conference of interest to you. Outstanding submissions will be original work based on sound research, personal experience, or other methods of analysis relevant to the specific discipline involved.

    • Two prizes: $1,200
    • Honorable mention
    • Deadline for entry: March 24, 2015
    • Prizes awarded: second week of April, 2015

    This writing contest is designed to encourage thinking and analysis beyond the traditional areas of the basic sciences in order to broaden students' understanding of medicine and medical practice.  Submissions should examine medical issues and the human condition within the context of history, ethics, culture, literature, philosophy, sociology, or related frameworks.  Submissions are limited to defined prose genres, but can be either scholarly or creative, fiction or non-fiction.  Representative genres include scholarly essays, short stories, biographical or autobiographical expositions, or substantive and critical literature reviews. Creative writing must clearly incorporate one or more of the frameworks included in the purpose.  Submissions will be judged on their originality, organization, clarity, accuracy and creativity.  One submission can be entered per author. Submissions should be 2500-5000 words in length, double spaced with 1-inch margins in a 12 point font (approximately 12 to 20 pages).

    Students are encouraged to consult Jason Lewis or Lauris Kaldjian regarding issues of content or form.

    When citations are used, any academic note reference and citation style is allowed as long as page references are provided to specific quotations and sources of information. The style used by JAMA (see "References" in JAMA's Instructions for Authors at  ) is appropriate. 

    Send completed submissions electronically using the form below by midnight on the deadline date listed above.  Submissions must begin with a title page containing a title and date. The information on the submission form will be removed so that the submissions may be evaluated anonymously.

    For additional information, contact:

    Donna Hirst
    Hardin Library for the Health Sciences

     About Dr. Robert D. Sparks

    Previous Contest Winners:

    Year Winner Essay Title
    2007 1st Place:  Laura Carlyle Modern Medical Education and the Liberal Arts: Theoretical and Practical Dimensions of Integration
    2008 1st Place: Micheil Cannistra To Bypass or Not to Bypass: An Examination of the History and Ethics of Gastric Bypass Surgery 2008
    2008  Co-Awardee: Stephanie Lichtor Physicians and Complicity in Torture in America’s War on Terror
    2009 1st Place: Micheil Cannistra Indian Giver: Lynch Syndrome, The Navajo, and the Genetic Revolution
    2009 2nd Place: Stephanie Lichtor A Physician’s Responsibility to Treat Pain
    2010 1st Place: Marie-Teresa Colbert Making the Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Mandatory
    2010 2nd Place: Kathleen Kennedy Miller A Modern History of Ayahuasca
    2011 1st Place: Laura Fragodt  For the Sake of Others:  Key Considerations in Medical Missions
    2011 2nd Place: Michell Cannistra The Rise of the Physician-Reporter: Responsibilities
    2011 Honorable Mention: Andrew L. Fahlgren The Seattle Experience: How “The Life and Death Committee” Determined Who Was Worthy of Dialysis    
    1st Place: Mary Becker Rysavy
    Labor and Luck: The Birth of Modern Oxytocics
    2012 2nd Place: Asitha Jayawardena,    Expedited ‘Diffusion of Innovation’: A reflection on the Ponseti Method in the current era of medicine
    2013 First place: Mary Becker Rysavy Sadness and Support: A Short History of Postpartum Depression

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