Virtual Mentor

What is Virtual Mentor?

Virtual Mentor(VM) is the American Medical Association's online ethics journal. The MEDLINE-indexed and advertisement-free journal explores the ethical issues and challenges that students, residents, and other physicians are likely to confront in their training and daily practice. Each monthly issue of VM contains original articles and commentary on a specific theme-e.g., standard of care, goals of medicine, clash of values in the clinical encounter, influence of the media on the practice of medicine. The themes and contributors are selected by medical students and residents who are selected through a competitive process to serve as issue editors. For more about VM see About Virtual Mentor. For information about how to apply to become an issue editor, see Theme Issue Editors.

How often is Virtual Mentor published?

VM is published monthly, each issue focusing on a medical specialty field or on a topic of concern and debate in medical ethics.

Does Virtual Mentor appear in print?

No. VM is an online journal only.

How is Virtual Mentor different from other high-profile ethics journals?

Virtual Mentor differs from other high-profile ethics journals in many respects. First and importantly, it is the only widely published ethics journal that is free to all with no subscription requirement. The journal is also different in its scope, its intended primary audiences and its editorial procedures. In scope, VM focuses on medical ethics and medical ethics education exclusively. This allows the journal to examine in detail the questions that medical students and practicing physicians confront on a daily basis. Other bioethics journals, by contrast, often seek out rare and infrequently encountered sorts of dilemmas as topics for theoretical exploration and conjecture. VM's primary audiences are medical students and resident physicians and those who teach them. To guarantee that its topics and content are of immediate interest and importance to these audiences, VM selects 12 medical student or resident editors through an annual competition, each of whom will be an editor for one VM issue during the following year. As a result, VM content directly reflects the ideas that are of most concern to those who are entering medicine as a career. (See Theme Issue Editors for more information.)

What is Virtual Mentor's permission-for-use policy?

VM editors strongly believe that access to the best available thinking and professional consensus on matters of ethical import in medicine and the care of patients should be unrestricted. Towards that end, the AMA allows anyone to link to, quote from, reprint, and copy VM articles, so long as the original authors, source, and AMA disclaimer are cited. The disclaimer must read as follows: "The viewpoints expressed in Virtual Mentor are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA." No permission for use is required from the AMA.

How can I respond to an article I read in Virtual Mentor?

Letters discussing a recent Virtual Mentor article may be sent to Letters will have the best chance of acceptance if they are received within 6 weeks of the article's publication. They should not exceed 800 words of text; letters not meeting these specifications are generally not considered. They should be double-spaced and a word count should be provided. The text of letters should include the names, academic degrees, and primary institutional affiliations of the author (s), and the e-mail address for the corresponding author. Letters must not duplicate other material published or submitted for publication. Letters will be published at the discretion of the editors and are subject to abridgement and editing for style and content.

Why should medical students, resident physicians, and medical educators read Virtual Mentor?

Virtual Mentor is free and available to all Internet users. The journal should be read by medical students, resident physicians, and medical educators, in particular, because it is dedicated to assisting them in resolving ethical questions and professionalism concerns that they will confront in their education and practice. VM's topics and contributors are selected by medical students and residents who are in the thick of things, so to speak. Their editorial involvement assures that VM's topics are of immediate interest and assistance in their day-to-day activities. While new ethics questions arise every day and with every biotechnological advance, there is professional consensus on many ethical dilemmas-e.g., informed consent, right of competent patients to refuse treatment, limits to confidentiality, privacy of genetic information. VM, with its theme-based and clinical case archives, is a quick and reader-friendly resource for medical students and physicians who, with its help, do not have to analyze such dilemmas on their own.

Are Virtual Mentor articles sent out for peer-review?

No, for several reasons. VM does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Articles are solicited only from those who are recognized experts in the areas in which they are asked to contribute. The criteria upon which the quality and significance of the received articles are judged are soundness of argument and concordance with accepted principles of medical ethics and professionalism. The articles are then reviewed by VM's editorial staff, which brings to the task its competence in the fields of clinical medicine, philosophy, bioethics, law, journal editing, and familiarity with the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics.

Can I submit an article for publication in Virtual Mentor?

Virtual Mentor's authors are identified and solicited by each month's student or resident issue editor, who seeks experts to write on that issue's theme. VM's home page lists the themes of upcoming issues. If you have experience or knowledge expertise in one of the areas that a future issue of VM will explore and would like to contribute, e-mail us at

Is it true that Virtual Mentor has guest editors?

We call them "theme issue editors." Twelve medical students and residents are selected annually by a competitive process; each serves as editor for one issue of Virtual Mentor in the coming year. For more information, see Theme Issue Editors.

Does Virtual Mentor express only views and opinions that accord with AMA positions?

No. Virtual Mentor operates under the provisions of the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), according to which the journal's editor-in-chief has full authority over the editorial content of the journal. Each VM article contains this disclaimer: "The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA." That said, as a journal intended primarily for medical students, residents, other physicians, and medical educators, Virtual Mentor often has recourse in its analysis of professional concerns and challenges to the AMA Code of Medical Ethics, widely considered the most comprehensive ethics guide for physicians.

Can I receive an e-mail notice when each issue goes live?

Yes. To sign up, or for more information, please see E-mail Alerts.

There is a problem with your site. What should I do?

Notify us at Please include the details of the problem, e.g., the address of the page with the broken link. We will see that the message gets to the web technicians.