EnglishHealth & Medical Psychology

Teaching Behavioral Science to Medical Students

We asked Danny Wedding, PhD, and Margaret L. Stuber, MD, the editors of “Behavior and Medicine” 6 questions.

1.  What role does behavioral science play in the field of medicine?
All patients behave, and understanding the rudiments of behavioral science will help physicians better understand and treat issues such as noncompliance, doctor shopping, functional pain, psychosomatic complaints, addiction, and the treatment of difficult patients.  Primary care physicians often report that the vast majority of the patients they treat present with behavioral problems, and understanding a little about psychology and behavioral science make physicians more empathic and less judgmental.

2.  Why is Behavior and Medicine an essential textbook for students? What makes it special?
The book has been used by thousands of medical students, and it is unique in its use of art, literature, poetry, and quotations to illustrate and underscore core behavioral science principles.  Danny has a master’s degree in English literature, and he drew on his love of literature in preparing many of the literary vignettes sprinkled throughout the book.

3.  How did you decide which chapters and topics to include in the book?
Both Danny and Margi have decades of experience teaching medical students and helping them prepare for the USMLE Step examinations.  In addition, both Danny (a clinical psychologist) and Margi (a psychiatrist) have extensive clinical experience, and we used this experience to shape the selection of chapters.  On top of that, we have drawn heavily and been guided by a consensus report from the National Academy of Medicine titled Improving Medical Education: Enhancing the Behavioral and Social Science Content of Medical School Curricula.

4.  How does your book help medical students prepare for the USMLE (or other behavioral science exams)?
Behavior and Medicine has sample questions that students can use to assess their own readiness for the Step exam.  In addition, every chapter includes a section titled "Tips for the Step" that contains recommendations about the topics most likely to be tested on the USMLE Step.  

5.  How did you prepare the practice USMLE exam questions?
We reviewed dozens of "test preparation" books and drew on our own experience and the reports of our students after taking the Step.  One of the most gratifying results of editing Behavior and Medicine has been reports from students that they performed well on the Step -- performance they attribute to reading our book and taking our classes.

 6.  What new features are in the 6th edition and how does this reflect on developments generally in behavioral science and medicine?
The new edition builds on "lessons learned" from dozens of professors and from hundreds of students who have used one of the last five editions and provided feedback about the book and the ways in which it prepared them to take the Step exam.  We have updated all chapters and several of the chapters have been totally reworked by new authors.  There is also a new essay in the Appendix titled "How Doctors Die" that most students find provocative and engaging.

About the authors

Danny Wedding, PhD, MPH

Saybrook University, Oakland, CA and the American University of the Caribbean, Cupecoy, Sint Maarten

Danny Wedding, PhD, MPH.  Danny trained as a clinical psychologist at the University of Hawaii, and then completed a postdoc at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. After retiring from the University of Missouri School of Medicine, he taught at Alliant International University, American University of Antigua, and the American University of the Caribbean. Danny is the author or editor of a dozen books, the former editor of PsycCRITIQUES (APA's journal of book and film reviews), and a Past President of the Society of Clinical Psychology.  Danny continues to write and consult from his home in West Linn, Oregon.

Margaret L. Stuber, MD

Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Margi has worked in medical student education at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA for almost 30 years and is the Associate Chair for Medical Student Education for the department of Psychiatry. Her newest adventure is serving as the Program Director for the UCLA/VA Greater Los Angeles Psychiatry Residency Program.