Evolutionary science as a method to facilitate higher level thinking and reasoning in medical training

Joseph L. Graves, Chris Reiber, Anna Thanukos, Magdalena Hurtado, Terry Wolpaw

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Evolutionary science is indispensable for understanding biological processes. Effective medical treatment must be anchored in sound biology. However, currently the insights available from evolutionary science are not adequately incorporated in either pre-medical or medical school curricula. To illuminate how evolution may be helpful in these areas, examples in which the insights of evolutionary science are already improving medical treatment and ways in which evolutionary reasoning can be practiced in the context of medicine are provided. To facilitate the learning of evolutionary principles, concepts derived from evolutionary science that medical students and professionals should understand are outlined. These concepts are designed to be authoritative and at the same time easily accessible for anyone with the general biological knowledge of a first-year medical student. Thus, we conclude that medical practice informed by evolutionary principles will be more effective and lead to better patient outcomes. Furthermore, it is argued that evolutionary medicine complements general medical training because it provides an additional means by which medical students can practice the critical thinking skills that will be important in their future practice. We argue that core concepts from evolutionary science have the potential to improve critical thinking and facilitate more effective learning in medical training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-368
Number of pages11
JournalEvolution, Medicine and Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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