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Fall 2013 Evolutionary Medicine

Welcome students to the Fall 2013 Evolutionary Medicine course.

This blog will be frequently updated with details, including the new syllabus, which will be posted this week.

Course description:

This course will describe how evolutionary biology provides insights into human health and disease.  For most of the 20th century, the health sciences and evolutionary biology progressed along different paths, with neither discipline having much impact on the other. The last 15 years have seen increased exchange of information between the two fields of study.  For instance, medical science has embraced evolutionary concepts that relate to pathogen antibiotic resistance. This course is a broader overview of evolutionary medicine. We will explore how natural selection and phylogeny influence pathogen-host interactions, human genetics, immunology, development, cancer, and diseases of senescence.

Evolutionary biology has important implications for the medical concepts of health, “normal” physiology and illness. One is the recognition of tradeoffs that sometimes promote health and other times result in illness. Many of these ideas challenge the conventional wisdom of the health sciences.  During this course we will consider controversies and questions regarding health and evolution. A lecture will be given each Tuesday on a topic, and alternative hypotheses will be presented. After lectures, the class will hold discussions, a “journal club” presentation, and critique of ideas in evolutionary medicine.



By the end of this course students will:

– be able to search the literature to find publications in evolution and medicine.

– be able to describe how an evolutionary perspective can help a clinician or researcher.

– learn to critique and evaluate evolutionary medicine hypotheses.

– recognize evolutionary problems in medicine.

– understand the categories (subtypes) of evolutionary medicine hypotheses.

– learn to develop a novel hypothesis in evolutionary medicine.

I look forward to meeting you all.


Joe Alcock MD

Categories: Uncategorized

Joe Alcock

Emergency Physician, Educator, Researcher, interested in the microbiome, evolution, and medicine

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