Medical Student Education

M1 Behavioral Science

Course Director: Irma Corral, PhD
Education Coordinator: Carolyn Sherrod

Spring Semester, M-1 year


Health is a product of the interactions among biology, genetics, behavior, relationships, cultures, and environments. Some of medicine's most promising frontiers for improving health involve the realms of human behavior and social science, as more and more disease states cannot be addressed without attention to the behavioral or social factors that cause them, erect barriers against treating them, or can ameliorate them. Hence, a complete medical education must include, alongside the physical and biological sciences, the perspectives and findings that flow from the behavioral and social sciences.

This course presents information about the wide variety of behavioral, social, and psychological disciplines that comprise the behavioral sciences that are relevant to health and illness. The course endorses a universally held public health concept. This concept explains that behavior - including that of patients, physicians, and the community-plays a central role in the incidence, prevalence, prevention, symptom presentation, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of illness.

Course Sections

The course is divided into two sections:

  1. Human Development Through the Life Cycle
  2. Principles of Human Behavior

As we move through the semester, we explore the complex factors which influence normal human behavior. We begin by examining normal biopsychosocial changes that occur with aging throughout the life course. Then, we move into more complex theories of human behavior, and end with a focus on the application of these theories in the context of healthcare and health behavior change.

By the end of the semester, each student should have an understanding of key concepts and a basic ability to apply these concepts in a biopsychosocial model of care.

Course Objectives

The objective of the course is to provide the medical trainee with a thorough grounding in behavioral science principles in medicine (i.e., importance of utilization of a developmental/life-span perspective, recognition of individual variation across gender, age, and sociocultural conditions, and use and application of behavioral and social theories in the practice of medicine). Specifically, by the end of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. List and describe the major behavioral and social science theories of human behavior and how these are applied in the practice of medicine.
  2. Describe the major theories and stages of human development through the life cycle, and understand how developmental considerations are incorporated into clinical formulations.
  3. Using behavioral change theory, provide patient-centered guidance for health behavior change.
  4. Integrate the philosophy of the biopsychosocial model with the perspective of the biomedical model.
  5. Apply behavioral and social science understandings to physician behavior and understand the principles of self-awareness and reflective practice.