Ethics Summer Research Fellowship (ESRF) for CCOM Medical Students



Sponsored by the CCOM’s Program in Bioethics and Humanities, the Ethics Summer Research Fellowship (ESRF) is a research and learning opportunity designed for 1 or 2 CCOM medical students each year who have a significant interest in medical ethics. Potential topics of study cover a broad range of ethical concerns (see these Resources to learn more about topic areas in ethics, and below you’ll find published examples of past student-involved projects in ethics).

The Fellowship lasts 10 weeks during the summer between the M1 and M2 years and is supported by a $5000 stipend. The primary goal of the Fellowship is to offer students the opportunity to work on campus with a faculty mentor at the University of Iowa to investigate a medical ethical question; secondary goals of the Fellowship are to allow students to learn from bioethics faculty members and observe clinical ethics activities at UIHC.



Director: Lauris C. Kaldjian, MD, PhD (
Coordinator: Suzanne Gurnett Streitz, BA (



The ESRF requires a full-time, on-site commitment of 10 weeks during the summer between the M1 and M2 years. It is expected that participation in the ESRF will be the student’s top priority during these 10 weeks. To support this participation, the student will receive a $5000 stipend. Students may not participate in the ESRF if they are remediating a class over the summer or have other commitments that conflict with their ability to meet the Fellowship’s expectations. (If desired by the student and arranged in advance with the student’s mentor, the summer research experience can be extended to 12 weeks, though there would not be additional funding for the extension.)

Interested students will identify a mentor and then plan, write, and submit a medical ethics research proposal that is reviewed by the ESRF Review Committee. Fellowships will be awarded on a competitive basis. Up to 2 fellowships will be awarded each year.

It is expected that participating students will become familiar with the elements of medical ethics research, working with a mentor to:

  • Define a research question in medical ethics suitable for empirical investigation.
  • Design a study to gather data to answer the question, using quantitative or qualitative methods.
  • Interpret the findings generated.
  • Collaborate in the drafting of a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Additional Learning Expectations and Opportunities:

  • Key Topics in Bioethics (required): students will meet with a rotating schedule of individual bioethics faculty members to discuss a topic with a reading assigned in advance.
  • Clinical Ethics Activities (optional): students will have the opportunity to observe the work of UIHC’s Ethics Consult Service and the UIHC’s Ethics Working Group.


Possible Mentors in the Program of Bioethics and Humanities

The following faculty may be available as possible mentors:

  • Rebecca J. Benson, MD, PhD (Pediatric Palliative Care) Website / PubMed
  • Brittany Bettendorf, MD, MFA (Internal Medicine/Rheumatology) Website / PubMed
  • Erica M. Carlisle, MD (Pediatric Surgery) Website / PubMed
  • Lauris C. Kaldjian, MD, PhD (Internal Medicine) Website / PubMed
  • Graeme Pitcher, MBBCh (Pediatric Surgery) Website / Pubmed

Mentoring by additional faculty may be arranged if approved by the ESRF Review Committee.


Role of the Research Mentor

ESRF research mentors are responsible for supervising ESRF students during a 10-week summer research experience. Through the course of the application process and the project, the mentor will work with the student to: 

  • Define research question in medical ethics suitable for empirical investigation.
  • Design a study to gather data to answer the question, using quantitative or qualitative methods.
  • Interpret the findings generated.
  • Collaborate in drafting a manuscript to be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Participating mentors will also:

  • Mentor no more than two students during a given summer.
  • Provide the student with a letter of support briefly summarizing the student's project, the student's role, and the mentor’s commitment to supporting the student's ESRF research activities.
  • Ensure that the student completes any needed compliance training (e.g., IRB).
  • Ensure that any needed appointments or access (e.g., EPIC) are provided.  
  • Meet regularly with the student throughout the summer, providing guidance and support to ensure completion of the project.
  • Submit an evaluation of the student's performance at the end of the research experience.


Examples of past student-involved projects in ethics at the University of Iowa

  • Rempel AML, Barlow PB, Kaldjian LC. Medical education and the ethics of self-care: a survey of medical students regarding professional challenges and expectations for living healthy lifestyles. Southern Medical Journal 2021;114(12):783-788.
  • Marsden KA, Kaldjian LC, Carlisle EM.  Ethical issues encountered during the medical student surgical clerkship.  Journal of Surgical Research 2019;244:272-277.
  • Levy C, Weeks KS, Benson RJ, Miller, JM, Higgins J, Deutsch SA, Lantos JD. Failure to provide adequate palliative care may be medical neglect. Pediatrics 2019;144(4):e20183939.
  • Kaldjian LC, Shinkunas LA, Reisinger HS, Polacco MA, Perencevich EN.  Attitudes about sickness presenteeism in medical training: is there a hidden curriculum?  Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control 2019;8:149.
  • Greiner AM, Kaldjian LC.  Rethinking medical oaths using the Physician Charter and ethical virtues. Medical Education 2018;52(8):826-837.
  • Polacco MA, Shinkunas L, Perencevich E, Kaldjian LC, Reisinger H.  See one, do one, teach one: hand hygiene attitudes among medical students, interns, and faculty.  American Journal of Infection Control 2015;43:159-161.
  • Haberle TH, Shinkunas LA, Erekson ZD, Kaldjian LC.  Goals of care among hospitalized patients: a validation study.  American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine 2011;28:335-341.
  • Kaldjian LC, Erekson ZD, Haberle TH, Curtis AE, Shinkunas LA, Cannon KT, Forman-Hoffman VL.  Code status discussions and goals of care among hospitalized adults.  Journal of Medical Ethics 2009;35:338-342.


Timeline for Expressions of Interest and Selection of a Topic and Mentor (by December 15)

  • September/October: Potentially interested M1 students should contact Dr. Lauris Kaldjian by email ( as early as possible during the first semester to arrange an initial conversation to discuss possible areas of interest and potential research mentors.
  • October/November: Students should aim to reach out to potential research mentors by November 15, so they have plenty of time to identify a topic and work with a mentor on the research proposal prior to the application deadline.
  • December: Once a topic and mentor are selected, the student must send this information to the ESRF Coordinator, Suzanne Gurnett Streitz (, by December 15.


Application Procedure and Deadline (January 15)

Each student will work with a research mentor to develop a research proposal which must be submitted by January 15 as part of an on-line application available through ICON

The application portal will request specific information and the uploading of three items:

  1. Student’s updated CV
  2. Student’s Research Proposal
  3. Mentor’s Letter of Support

The Research Proposal should be single-spaced, no more than four (4) single-spaced pages in length, and follow the following structure:

  1. General Information: student’s name; mentor’s name and title
  2. Project title
  3. Summary: A single paragraph statement of the problem and the proposed work to be done.
  4. Rationale and Aims: The research question and/or hypothesis, and specific aims, of the study.
  5. Background: Description of the problem, relevant background literature, and knowledge gaps that support the need for the proposed research.
  6. Methods: Description of the research plan and its qualitative and/or quantitative methods, including how data will be analyzed. 
  7. Role of the student: The proposal must specify the student's roles and responsibilities.
  8. Significance: Explanation of why the results of the proposed work are expected to be important.
  9. References: References should provide a meaningful amount of background context and detail that demonstrates understanding of the problem to be studied and awareness of relevant current knowledge in the area. 


Award Notification

Applicants will be notified of the decision regarding their application by March 1.

Progress Report

ESRF students will submit a progress report (approximately 1-page, single-spaced) which describes the work that was accomplished during the summer and a brief statement of plans for completing the project and publishing the results. This progress report is due by September 30 and should be sent by email to Dr. Kaldjian ( and Suzanne Streitz (