The Growing Need for Evolution and Medicine
in High School Biology
Statements #1-6 were gleaned from the references that follow.

1. We see an increasing need (and clear benefit) for understanding of evolution in medical training.

2. However, medical schools and pre-med programs are already crammed, little room for adding extensive evolution content.

3. Medicine is becoming an increasingly useful application for evolution, with a growing number of examples that you could use. Pre-college teachers should try to incorporate such examples into their biology/life science courses.

4. Using medicine as a major application of biology in general, and evolution in particular, can help to fill this educational gap.

5. Doing this fits closely with the growing focus on the use of STEMM (STEM+Medicine) in pre-college science courses.

6. It turns out that medical applications of evolution provide an engaging and relevant approach to introducing and teaching evolution. See the article by Meikle and Scott: Evolutionary Medicine: A Key to Introducing Evolution (EEO4.4.13). It’s in the E:E&O Index (see below).

7. The NIH and BSCS have prepared an excellent classroom-tested curriculum supplement on Evolution and Medicine for grades 9-12. It was designed to provide a 2-week curriculum to help students understand major concepts of evolution using dynamic, modern and relevant context of medicine. It is now available free from the NIH. To request a copy of Evolution and Medicine Curriculum Supplement, click on that title. If you then click on “Web Version” there, you can see all materials online.
Also, an excellent informative description, discussion and assessment of this unit can be found in Evolution: Education and Outreach, vol. 4, no. 4, 603-612, an article by Paul Beardsley, et al, titled Evolution and Medicine: An Inquiry-Based High School Curriculum Supplement (October, 2011) EEO4.4.9. Go to the E:E&O Index (see below).

Similar NIH materials for Middle school: Rare Diseases and Scientific Inquiry will be available in March, 2013, but you can order now by clicking on that title.

E:E&O Index: The journal: Evolution: Education & Outreach, vol. 4, no. 4 Index. (This entire issue is dedicated to evolution in medicine.)
Click on the title of the desired article in the Index to see its abstract. If you can’t get the full paper, contact the ENSI webmaster citing the EEO4.4 + number(s) and title(s) of desired article(s).

MORE RESOURCES & REFERENCES

On Designing Courses in Evolutionary Medicine
Stephen C. Stearns
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, Evo: Edu & Outreach (2011) 4:589-594 DOI 10.1007/s12052-011-0363-0 EEO4.4.7 Published online: 27 October 2011, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
ABSTRACT: Evolution is a basic science for medicine, as are physics and chemistry. The reason that courses in evolutionary medicine currently exist is that it has only recently been appreciated that an evolutionary viewpoint sheds useful new light on many medical issues to yield insights that can reduce suffering and save lives. Until those insights are incorporated into the premedical and medical curricula, there is some catch-up to do. That is one function that these courses serve. They will probably continue to do so for some years to come.

A Clinical Perspective in Evolutionary Medicine: What We Wish We Had Learned in Medical School
Joe Alcock & Mark D. Schwartz
Joe Alcock, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of New Mexico,
Mark D. Schwartz Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, Evo Edu & Outreach (2011) 4:574-579 DOI 10.1007/s12052-011-0362-1 EEO4.4.5
Published online: 5 November 2011, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2011
ABSTRACT: Medical students have much to gain by understanding how evolutionary principles affect human health and disease. Many theoretical and experimental studies have applied lessons from evolutionary biology to issues of critical importance to medical science. A firm grasp of evolution and natural selection is required to understand why the human body remains vulnerable to many diseases. Although we often integrate evolutionary concepts when we teach medical students and residents, the vast majority of medical students never receive any instruction on evolution. As a result, many trainees lack the tools to understand key advances and miss valuable opportunities for education and research. Here, we outline some of the evolutionary principles that we wished we had learned during our medical training.
Medical schools are complex institutions that are slow to change. Jack Colwill aptly wrote, We educate tomorrows physicians in todays system while maintaining yesterday’s beliefs (Colwell 2004). Curricular time is precious, and many valuable fields vie for larger roles in educating physicians. However, it has been argued that teaching evolutionary concepts such as selection, common ancestry, phylogenetics, and tree-thinking (Baum et al. 2005) provides an integrated, conceptual scaffold, a cognitive hat rack on which medical facts can be organized. Infusing the concepts of evolution into medical education can help students build the bridges and tunnels they need to connect and navigate what is otherwise an archipelago of basic and clinical sciences.

From the Thinking Evolutionarily Convocation Summary (2012), NRC, NAS:
Evolution provides learners with a conceptual framework, said Schwartz. It integrates basic and clinical sciences, making medical education and practice more coherent. Infusing this integrative science into medical education can foster new questions and insights that provide a sense of discovery about the human condition. Learners find evolutionary science endlessly intriguing and are quite eager to learn more, but they are very disappointed with the lack of educational opportunities.

there is not enough room in the medical school curriculum for a whole new course. [Therefore, the convocation working group] will seek to infuse evolutionary thinking into the basic science and clinical education of trainees, and model curricula and learning experiences will be open for all to use.

Meikle, W. Eric and Eugenie Scott (2011) Evolutionary Medicine: A Key to Introducing Evolution. Evolution: Education & Outreach, vol 4:644-647 (2 December 2011) EEO4.4.13
ABSTRACT: Science teachers can use examples and concepts from evolutionary medicine to teach the three concepts central to evolution: common descent, the processes or mechanisms of evolution, and the patterns produced by descent with modification. To integrate medicine into common ancestry, consider how the evolutionary past of our (or any) species affects disease susceptibility. That humans are bipedal has produced substantial changes in our musculoskeletal system, as well as causing problems for childbirth. Mechanisms such as natural selection are well exemplified in evolutionary medicine, as both disease-causing organisms and their targets adapt to one another. Teachers often use examples such as antibiotic resistance to teach natural selection: it takes little alteration of the lesson plan to make explicit that evolution is key to understanding the principles involved. Finally, the pattern of evolution can be illustrated through evolutionary medicine because organisms sharing closer ancestry also share greater susceptibility to the same disease-causing organisms. Teaching evolution using examples from evolutionary medicine can make evolution more interesting and relevant to students, and quite probably, more acceptable as a valid science.


Evolution and Medicine in Understanding Evolution website.

Battling bacterial evolution: the work of Carl Bergstrom
Dr. Carl Bergstrom manages evolution. From his laboratory at the University of Washington, Carl figures out how to control the evolutionary future of microbe populations, nudging them towards particular destinies and away from others. His laboratory does not look like a traditional biology lab; rather than test tubes or microscopes or petri dishes, the rooms are full of computers, whiteboards, books, and coffee machines. But then again, Carl is not trying to evolve smarter dogs or to resurrect T. rex. Instead, he has his eye on a far more practical goal: to control how bacteria in hospitals evolve resistance to our drugs. His tools in this endeavor are computers, mathematics, and evolutionary theory, and the testing grounds for his ideas are hospital intensive care units.

In this research profile we will explore these key questions:
- How does natural selection work?
- How can we observe and experiment on evolution?
- How does an evolutionary biologist test a hypothesis?
- What are some practical applications for evolutionary knowledge?
- What is modeling?