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Evolution. 2012 Jun;66(6):1991-2006. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01552.x. Epub 2012 Feb 6.

Evolution and medicine in undergraduate education: a prescription for all biology students.

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Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA.


The interface between evolutionary biology and the biomedical sciences promises to advance understanding of the origins of genetic and infectious diseases in humans, potentially leading to improved medical diagnostics, therapies, and public health practices. The biomedical sciences also provide unparalleled examples for evolutionary biologists to explore. However, gaps persist between evolution and medicine, for historical reasons and because they are often perceived as having disparate goals. Evolutionary biologists have a role in building a bridge between the disciplines by presenting evolutionary biology in the context of human health and medical practice to undergraduates, including premedical and preprofessional students. We suggest that students will find medical examples of evolution engaging. By making the connections between evolution and medicine clear at the undergraduate level, the stage is set for future health providers and biomedical scientists to work productively in this synthetic area. Here, we frame key evolutionary concepts in terms of human health, so that biomedical examples may be more easily incorporated into evolution courses or more specialized courses on evolutionary medicine. Our goal is to aid in building the scientific foundation in evolutionary biology for all students, and to encourage evolutionary biologists to join in the integration of evolution and medicine.

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