When to invade (the medical curriculum)?

Some medical schools are beginning to think about a formal curse in evolutionary medicine. But teaching time appears to be “precious” and curriculum committees need guidance as to when can they donate a few hours to our discipline. In general most traditional medical curricula focus on the preclinical sciences in the first years and clinical sciences in the latter years . Medical Schools in the British Commonwealth and much of Europe generally take students direct from high school who may have relatively little biological education and certainly no formal introduction to evolution. In the USA, medical education is generally a graduate education but even here the student may have had no formal exposure to basic evolutionary biology. In problem based teaching courses there is little room at all for formal teaching and this will be a greater challenge for the mentors themselves will generally have little comfort in the space.

Thus the challenge for introducing evolutionary medicine into the curriculum is two-fold – first, to provide a basic understanding of evolutionary principles and, second, to make these relevant to the language of the (more…)

Weather forecasting or maternal manipulation?

Over the past 150,000 years humans have manifestly been migratory, travelling into vastly different climatic regions of the globe. Darwinian evolution can lead to genetic differences in populations living in different climates, but any mechanism that can protect individuals from relatively short-term changes in living conditions that differ from those in which previous generations lived will also be highly advantageous. If a mother can transmit to her unborn offspring cues that will affect its stature, metabolism and a host of life-history characteristics, she will be at an advantage in fitness terms over a mother who cannot. Paradoxically the reasons for thinking that this has indeed been the case is best found when things go wrong. (more…)