The Evolution & Medicine Review
ISEMPH July 14-16, 2021 Across the World Online

ISEMPH July 14-16, 2021 Across the World Online

The abstracts for over 170 presentations are now available in this searchable sortable database.

We will miss seeing each other in person this year, but having ISEMPH 2021 online July 14-16 makes it possible for friends and colleagues from around the world to participate at nominal expense. Plenary speakers and interactive activities will be live, all other talks will be pre-recorded and available via our website on our YouTube channel, followed by moderated discussions with Q&A. 

There is still time to join one of the Grand Challenges groups that will meet prior to the conference, but act fast.

Register now if you have not already.

Confirmed plenary speakers (see more about the program here)

The ISEMPH program committee for 2021 includes Joe Alcock, Nicole Bender, Michelle Blyth, Sylvia Cremer, Bernie Crespi, Isabel Gordo, Joe Graves, Michael Hochberg (Co-Chair), Jay Labov, Michael Muehlenbein (Chair), Alejandra Nuñez De La Mora, Gillian Pepper, and Frank Rühli. 

Please send questions and suggestions about the meeting to or

ClubEvMed for June

ClubEvMed for June

Club EvMed: Why is human childbirth so difficult? Obstetrics and the evolution of labor

Friday, June 11th at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

Join us for a conversation with Philipp Mitteroecker and Barbara Fischer, both in the Department of Evolutionary Biology’s Unit for Theoretical Biology at the University of Vienna, Austria. The incidence of obstructed labor in humans is strikingly high, in the range of 3-6% worldwide, mostly resulting from the disproportion of the mother’s pelvic dimensions and the newborn’s head. Mortality and morbidity due to this disproportion imposes a strong – and partly persisting – selection pressure. Why has natural selection not led to a wider female birth canal and reduced obstructed labor?

We present a model that explains the high rate of obstructed labor by the specific properties of the selection scenario involved in human childbirth. Drawing from epidemiology and evolutionary quantitative genetics, the model allows for an estimation of the strength of selection on neonatal and maternal dimensions. We show how moderate directional selection suffices to account for the high rates of cephalopelvic disproportion and discuss why selection is unable to reduce these rates. Furthermore, the model predicts a considerable evolutionary response of pelvic and/or neonatal dimensions resulting from the regular use of Caesarean sections, and it also explains the intergenerational “inheritance” of Caesarean delivery. We also show how environmental, economic, and demographic transitions contribute to the global rates of Caesarean section. This illustrates the importance of evolutionary theory to understand biosocial and epidemiological change in modern societies.

Attendees are encouraged to read Pavličev et al. 2020, “Evolution of the human pelvis and obstructed labor: New explanations of an old obstetrical dilemma” and Fischer et al. 2021, “Sex differences in the pelvis did not evolve de novo in modern humans.” 

Sign up here for the meeting link:

Club EvMed: Evolution management from a game-theory perspective: can superbugs be forever tamed?

Monday, June 21st at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

When people “treat” a biological population, e.g., when a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, a farmer sprays an herbicide, or a homeowner mows their lawn, they create a selective pressure favoring organisms that can better survive and/or recover from treatment. It might therefore seem that rising resistance to treatment is inevitable. In this week’s conversation, Duke economics professor David McAdams will discuss why this is not necessarily the case—how the traditional logic of rising resistance hinges on an assumption of ignorance about the biological population. If the “evolution manager” has multiple treatment options and can observe the state of the population before deciding which treatment to prescribe, e.g., by conducting a rapid resistance diagnostic of an infecting pathogen or visually inspecting an unruly lawn, their subsequent informed treatment may then shape the fitness landscape in ways that serve human needs and, indeed, enhance the population’s future treatability. But there are important limitations, as the population may be impacted by the choices of other evolution managers (creating a “game” among managers) and some strategies with the potential to select against resistant organisms may only be feasible when resistance is sufficiently rare.

Attendees are encouraged to read McAdams et al. 2019, “Resistance diagnostics as a public health tool to combat antibiotic resistance: A model-based evaluation” and McAdams 2017, “Resistance diagnosis and the changing epidemiology of antibiotic resistance.” 

Sign up here for the meeting link:

Frank Rühli named Dean at U. Zurich Medical School

Frank Rühli named Dean at U. Zurich Medical School

Frank Rühli, Prof. Dr. Dr. med., EMBA, has just been named Dean of the University of Zurich Medical School. He is the Founding Director of the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, at the University of Zurich where he is a Full Professor of Evolutionary Medicine and Head of the Paleopathology and Mummy Studies Group. He will begin as President of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health in July, 2021.

Many who have worked to bring an evolutionary foundation to medical research and education have thought the project would have to wait until current students became Deans. But now that one leading medical school has seen the opportunity, others will certainly follow.

Omenn Prize Awarded

Omenn Prize Awarded

The International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health has awarded the $5000 Omenn prize for the best article on a topic related to evolution, medicine, and public health published in the past year to Chelsea J. Weibel (photo above), Jenny Tung, Susan C. Alberts, and Elizabeth A. Archie for “Accelerated reproduction is not an adaptive response to early-life adversity in wild baboons” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Oct 2020, 117 (40) 24909-24919. 

The Committee also recognized three additional papers for honorable mention.

  • Morley, V. J., Kinnear, C. L., Sim, D. G., Olson, S. N., Jackson, L. M., Hansen, E., Usher, G. A., Showalter, S. A., Pai, M. P., Woods, R. J., & Read, A. F. (2020) An adjunctive therapy administered with an antibiotic prevents enrichment of antibiotic-resistant clones of a colonizing opportunistic pathogen. eLife, 9, e58147.
  • Crespi, B. (2020). Evolutionary medical insights into the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2020(1), 314-322.
  • Dieltjens, L., Appermans, K., Lissens, M., Lories, B., Kim, W., Van der Eycken, E. V., Foster, K. R., & Steenackers, H. P. (2020). Inhibiting bacterial cooperation is an evolutionarily robust anti-biofilm strategy. Nature Communications, 11(1), 107.

ISEMPH thanks this year’s prize committee Caleb Finch (chair), Martin Brüne, Joe Graves, Jochim Kurtz, Chris Kuzawa, Anne Stone, and Carol Worthman and sponsor Gilbert Omenn for making this prize possible.

Omenn Prize: $5000 for best EvMed article

The $5000 Gilbert S. Omenn Prize is awarded by the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health for the best article published in the previous calendar year on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health.  Nominations for articles published in 2020, including self-nominations, are welcome until April 30, 2021. Caleb Finch chairs the prize jury.

Full information here:

Link for submission here:

The International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health invites
nominations for the Omenn Prize of $5000 for the best article published in
the previous calendar year in any scientific journal on a topic related to
evolution in the context of medicine and public health.

The prize, provided by the generosity of Gilbert S. Omenn, will be awarded
to the first author of the winning article. The Committee, chaired this
year by Caleb Finch, may elect to recognize more than one article. Authors
are encouraged to nominate their own articles, but nominations of articles
by others are also welcome.Directions for NominationsPlease submit your
nomination using this brief form. The form requests a reference for the
nominated article, along with a brief statement in support of your

Peer-reviewed articles with a publication date of 2020 that use
evolutionary principles to advance understanding of a disease or disease
process are eligible.  The prize committee will give priority to articles
with implications for human health, but many basic science or theoretical
articles have such implications.

The prize is made possible by a generous donation by Gilbert Omenn, M.D.,
PhD. Director of the Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics
at the University of Michigan where he is a Professor of Internal Medicine,
Human Genetics, and Public Health. Dr. Omenn served as Executive Vice
President for Medical Affairs as Chief Executive Officer of the University
of Michigan Health System from 1997-2002. He is a past president of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the
Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.