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2009 Question of the Year

Kanter, Steven L. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181953b40
From the Editor

In my inaugural editorial one year ago, I promised to “use each year’s January editorial to challenge the academic medicine community with a broad-based, thought-provoking, discussion-generating question.”1 It is in that spirit that I invite responses to my 2009 Question of the Year: How should academic medicine contribute to peace-building efforts around the world?

What do I mean by academic medicine, what does peace-building imply, and how can one submit a response to the 2009 Question of the Year?

By academic medicine, I mean medical schools and teaching hospitals, and all of the individuals who work and learn in these institutions. Furthermore, while there have been, and continue to be, a number of efforts focused on humanitarian medical aid,2,3 the use of health initiatives to promote peace,4 and scholarly efforts to understand how medical interventions can contribute to peace,5 my question targets specifically the role that academic medicine can and should play in peace-building.

Peace-building was defined in a 1992 United Nations Secretary-General’s report6 as an “action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict.” The report goes on to place peace-building in the context of other important steps in achieving peace:

Preventive diplomacy seeks to resolve disputes before violence breaks out; peacemaking and peace-keeping are required to halt conflicts and preserve peace once it is attained. If successful, they strengthen the opportunity for postconflict peace-building, which can prevent the recurrence of violence among nations and peoples.

In considering the role of academic medicine in peace-building, I hope that the 2009 Question of the Year will stimulate members of the academic medicine community to explore possibilities that include, but also extend beyond the realm of, direct patient care. Are there broader, more encompassing roles for medical schools and teaching hospitals? For example, MacQueen and Santa-Barbara define “health-peace initiative” as an effort that can improve both the health of a people and their level of peace and security.4 They describe five health-peace mechanisms that have been used by health workers: conflict management, solidarity, strengthening the social fabric, dissent, and restricting the destructiveness of war. How can academic medicine expand knowledge of existing health-peace mechanisms, develop reliable and valid measures to evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions, and discover new health-peace strategies? What kinds of scientific collaborations would be most effective? What new research needs to be done? Do we need to create a new area of scientific inquiry called “health-peace science?” Do we need a new specialty called “health-peace medicine?” What should faculty add to existing courses, clerkships, and residency experiences so that students and residents develop knowledge and skills in these new areas? What new service-learning opportunities should be developed to help meet these goals?

I invite responses to the 2009 Question of the Year in the form of an essay with a maximum of 750 words and three references. Anyone is eligible to submit an essay (i.e., one does not need to have a formal role at a medical school or teaching hospital), and an individual may be an author or coauthor of more than one essay. The guidelines of this journal’s “Complete Instructions for Authors” ( should be followed to determine eligibility for authorship. The deadline for submitting an essay is May 1, 2009. All essays must be written in English and submitted through the journal’s Web-based manuscript submission system (; there is a special category on the submission form, “Response to 2009 Question of the Year”).

The journal’s professional editorial staff and editorial board will work with me to select approximately five essays to publish later this year in the journal, and we may post additional essays on Editor’s Notepad ( We will select essays for publication that present responses to the 2009 Question of the Year that are creative, imaginative, innovative, and feasible.

Those of us who work and learn in medical schools and teaching hospitals have special expertise in educating future physicians, discovering new cures, treating complex and difficult conditions, and caring for populations with special needs. These capabilities, along with our community’s collective talent, moral commitment, and intellectual capital constitute a unique and valuable resource that could contribute so much to postconflict peace-building efforts. Do we have an obligation to do so? If you believe we do, please tell us how by submitting a response to the 2009 Question of the Year.

Steven L. Kanter, MD

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1 Kanter SL. A “grand challenge” from the new editor. Acad Med 2008;83:1–2.
2 Doctors without Borders. Available at: ( Accessed November 10, 2008.
3 Project Hope. Available at: ( Accessed November 10, 2008.
4 MacQueen G, Santa-Barbara J. Peace building through health initiatives. BMJ 2000;321:293–296.
5 Peace Through Health Program at McMaster University’s Centre for Peace Studies. Available at: ( Accessed November 10, 2008.
6 An Agenda for Peace. Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking, and Peace-Keeping. Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to the statement adopted by the Summit Meeting of the Security Council on 31 January 1992. Document A/47/277 – S/24111. New York: United Nations, June 17, 1992. Available at: ( Accessed November 10, 2008.
© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges