First dean of the college

The University of Kentucky College of Medicine Department of Behavioral Science was founded in 1959 by William R. Willard, MD, the first dean of the College of Medicine, as the first department of behavioral science in the United States. The department’s first chair was Robert Straus, PhD, a member of the founding committee of the medical center. 

Although unique at the time, the decision to enhance the behavioral science content of medical education has become an established priority for the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine. However, behavioral scientists in most medical schools are either scattered throughout clinical departments, located in medical education units, or placed in divisions within departments of psychiatry. As a freestanding basic science department, the department of behavioral science is an academic teaching and research unit, administratively independent, but with strong collaborative ties to clinical departments and to other basic science departments. 

The department is multidisciplinary, with faculty including the disciplines of anthropology, behavioral pharmacology, clinical psychology, cognitive neuroscience, epidemiology, ethics history, experimental psychology, pediatrics, psychiatry, social psychology, social work, and sociology. Departmental faculty members collaborate with many other academic departments in the College of Medicine. 

The department has a primary role in medical student teaching, having shared responsibility for Introduction to Clinical Medicine, a required small-group course for first-year medical students. Graduate education includes an interdisciplinary certificate, master’s degree, and doctoral degree in clinical and translational science and a research training program in drug abuse behavior. Pre-medical education includes an undergraduate certificate program and an honors focus in medical behavioral science.