Evolutionary Medicine Month at UCLA

Evolutionary medicine is an emerging field which combines the disciplines of evolutionary biology, anthropology, zoology and human medicine to create new paradigms for investigating and understanding human disease. The field is growing both nationally and internationally as leaders from varying fields recognize that novel translational insights can be gained by adopting a functional perspective.

Evolutionary Medicine Month at UCLA will bring leaders from the field of evolutionary medicine to speak at the UCLA Department of Medicine Grand Rounds in the month of February.  The initiative will also bring UCLA evolutionary biologists into morning report and other medical settings to expose them to not only the culture of human medicine but the kinds of questions for which an evolutionary approach would be applicable. We believe that this is important so as to begin to share the culture of medical education with non-medically trained evolutionary biologists.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, [email protected] or visit the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology website (

Medical Narrative

UCLA’s novel Medical Narrative program—“Storytelling from the Operating Room, Emergency Department and other Frontlines of Medicine”—engages ambitious and focused undergraduates with the vital work of medical professionals at UCLA. Launched in summer of 2011 and co-taught by journalist Kathryn Bowers (UCLA Writing Programs Faculty) and cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD (David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Faculty), the course exposes students to hands-on clinical experiences as well as to a range of superb prose by physician-writers.

On-site visits arranged though the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center provide a rare opportunity to report on both the day-to-day and cutting-edge aspects of being a doctor. Students observe and then write about several high-impact medical settings, including the Emergency Department, pathology lab, autopsy suites, cath labs and operating rooms. They practice the step-by-step, almost meditative process surgeons go through when they “scrub-in” for an operation. They discuss medical ethics, challenges, and rewards with doctors, chaplains, social workers and other members of the health care team. They receive a special briefing by the UCLA Compliance and Privacy Officer to learn essential parameters for patient confidentiality and the critical points of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In the classroom, students engage in challenging discussions of the work of some of the best doctor-writers practicing today: Atul Gawande, Jerome Groopman, Oliver Sacks, Perri Klass, Lisa Sanders, and Pauline Chen. Each student also has a personal writing workshop with the class; peer-to-peer editing is enhanced by individual meetings with and comments from the instructors.

Whether reporting a diagnostic breakthrough in a New York Times op-ed, crafting a grant proposal for a philanthropic foundation, or demystifying a new medical technique for a television audience, doctors increasingly need to communicate to a wide range of prospective funders and patients. Science communication has been prioritized by organizations such as the AAAS (whose website notes “the need for scientists who are well versed in communicating complex ideas to a general audience”) and the National Academies of Science (which awards individuals who “recognize, promote, and encourage effective communication of science, engineering, medicine and interdisciplinary work within and beyond the scientific community”).

In this era of hyper-specialization, the need has never been greater for scientists who can see the big picture, spot the small detail and weave it all into a story that engages and informs a wide audience of general readers. Learning to blend science reporting with individual experience can prepare doctors and doctors-in-training for a career of communicating with a wide range of patients and medical colleagues.

For more information, please contact Kathryn Bowers at [email protected].

Zoobiquity: Cardiovascular Medicine Across Species

This elective course is available to UCLA medical and graduate students.

Course overview:

  • Basic EKG interpretation, cardiac auscultation/examination, echocardiography, and other cardiac imaging will be presented to students in both human and veterinary patients.
  • Using a comparative approach, students will gain fundamental knowledge about the pathophysiology of various forms of heart disease.
  • Course will include imaging experiences with human and animals in a variety of medical and veterinary care settings.
  • Collaboration with veterinary colleagues will broaden the students’ understanding of these conditions in their human patients
  • In addition, students will participate in discussions of selected readings in Darwinian Medicine.

For more information, please contact Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D. at [email protected].