ISEMPH Presentation: Patricia H. Brito
"Challenges of first-time teaching Evolutionary Medicine at a medical school"
Patricia H. Brito
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Nova Medical School
The principles of evolution are finding their way into the curricula of medical schools worldwide. In Portugal, Evolutionary Medicine was offered for the first time during the academic year of 2013/2014. Available as an elective course for third-year students of the Nova Medical School, it consisted of a series of 12 sessions that included lectures, seminars and discussions. I will discuss the process of designing this course where introducing the students to the evolutionary thinking involved a tradeoff between engaging them in questions that are relevant for the medical practice and providing them with the basics of the evolutionary theory. The main struggle that is faced when Evolutionary Medicine is taught for the first time is the general unfamiliarity of what the discipline goals are and its advantages to the medical practice. In this course it was aimed that the students would acquire the tools to identify processes of somatic evolution that occur within the lifespan of an organism as well as the evolutionary processes that act on the germinal line. These concepts were integrated with medical topics that span cancer and antibiotic treatments to pathologies related with evolutionary processes within the immune and reproductive systems.