The Department of Behavioral Science in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine has launched a new student organization affiliated with the department’s undergraduate certificate program.

The Medical Behavioral Science certificate program core curriculum consists of three, writing-intensive, small-sized, interdisciplinary courses in medical psychology, medical sociology and health humanities.

“The program is designed to serve a diverse population of pre-medicine learners with an in-depth, interdisciplinary learning experience in the behavioral sciences that prepares them for managing the intellectual and interpersonal demands of medical training and affecting positive structural change in healthcare,” said Claire Clark, Ph.D., a Chellgren Endowed Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Behavioral Science and the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Clark is also the director of the undergraduate certificate program in medical behavioral science and will be developing the extracurricular components of this program.

The certificate offers a deep understanding of health behavior through reflective writing, individualized feedback and small group discussion in addition to MCAT-style test questions. Three courses are required for students to take plus an approved elective.

“As a Public Health major, we’re taught how the social determinants of health affect certain health outcomes at a population level versus an individual level,” said Samantha Jones, a junior public health major and vice president of the Medical Behavioral Science Organization. “Through this certificate program and student organization, I’ve already learned so much about how a person’s choices regarding their health affect population health, which I find extremely helpful and beneficial.”

The new Medical Behavioral Science Organization is a student group open to anyone at UK, including interested faculty as well as current health professions students. The organization’s first president hopes to build a dynamic and inclusive community for students to learn and collaborate.

“Students in the Medical Behavioral Science Organization will gain a comprehensive understanding of the psychological, anthropological and sociological aspects of medicine and health,” said Bhavya Vyas, a sophomore neuroscience and psychology major and organization president. “Overall, the student organization aims to create a supportive community that not only enriches students' academic experiences but also empowers them to make a difference in the evolving landscape of healthcare.”

Vyas is leading efforts to give students opportunities to hear from guest lecturers, encourage critical thinking, facilitate networking and collaboration, offer professional development resources and raise awareness about the importance of Medical Behavioral Science in healthcare and education.

The student organization will meet twice a month. The first meeting consists of online lectures related to medical behavioral science that will be open to the entire UK campus. The second meeting focuses on the organization’s journal club.

“Some article topics we discuss require us to reflect on the fuller picture of health and healthcare,” said Haley Griebel, a sophomore neuroscience major and the Medical Behavioral Science Organization’s program coordinator. “This organization, in connection with the certificate, allows pre-medical students to acquire knowledge and be immersed in a behavioral and relational dimension of health and medicine. This exposes us to be better prepared as future physicians who will relate with patients and peers while advancing medicine and healthcare in the best way possible.”

In the spring, the student organization will host the following lectures:

  • How Student Advocacy Led to Substantial Curricular Change
    Anna-Maria South, M.D., assistant professor, Department of Internal Medicine, and Hina Iqbal, M4, UK College of Medicine
    7:30-8:30 p.m. via Zoom on Feb. 5
  • Sleep Disparities in Eastern Kentucky: An Exploration of Causes and Consequences
    Mairead Moloney, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences
    7:30-8:30 p.m. via Zoom on March 2
  • Feeling Medicine: Simulation, Professionalism, and Emotions in Contemporary Medical Education
    Kelly Underman, associate professor, Department of Sociology, Drexel University
    7:30-8:30 p.m. via Zoom on April 1

The Medical Behavioral Science Organization hopes to provide students with other opportunities for shadowing, service learning and patient advocacy. 

Any pre-medical student across UK’s colleges can apply for the certificate program. Anyone with questions can email Claire Clark (