Steven Alan Epstein, MD, Chair
The teaching program of the Department of Psychiatry has been carefully designed to present the student with the biological, psychological, interpersonal, and social concepts of the discipline. This is accomplished with a curriculum that covers the four years of medical school instruction. The sequence of didactic material and experiential exposures provides the student with a knowledge base, skills, and appropriate attitudes and values that can be brought to any postgraduate specialty choice or career in medicine. The program enables the student to enter postgraduate medical education with an understanding of the common psychiatric problems and issues encountered by a practicing physician and the treatments and interventions available.
During the first year, the department teaches Patients, Physicians and Communication, which emphasizes the medical interview and the human responses to major illness and disability. The student's first live patients are introduced at the outset of the course with visits to the medical and surgical units of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. The student then discusses the interview in a small group setting with an instructor leading, supporting, and explaining principles of interviewing and the varying human reactions to illness. These small groups are supplemented by lectures, panel discussions, and patient demonstrations that are presented before the whole class. During this series bereavement, coping with cancer, the aged patient, the physician-patient relationship, and other issues are reviewed.
The primary goals of the second-year course, Introduction to Clinical Psychiatry, are learning the terminology and classification of common mental disorders, the neurobiological and psychosocial aspects of these disorders, and the problem-solving strategies in diagnosis and treatment. This is introduced in a multi-disciplinary approach of an integrated module with both basic and clinical science. A variety of instructional methods are used during the course, including lecture, videotape, and live patient interview/demonstration, and serial videotapes of one patient over time.
In the third year, a rotating clinical clerkship in psychiatry is offered at MedStar Georgetown University Medical Center or one of the affiliates: the Washington Veterans Affairs Medical Center or Washington Hospital Center. All of these are general hospitals with inpatient psychiatric services. The student is assigned to one hospital for four weeks. While there, the student functions as a participating member of a treatment team, which consists of a staff psychiatrist, psychiatric resident-in-training, psychiatric nurses, a social worker, and a psychologist. This immersion in clinical or "ward" work gives the student firsthand knowledge of a wide variety of mental disorders, as well as the full array of treatments applied in their management. This experience also provides students with the opportunity to see patients with serious physical illness complicated by mental disorders, as well as interactions between major medical/ surgical problems, and psychiatric disability.
Under a recent revision of the fourth-year curriculum, the Department of Psychiatry joins other clinical disciplines in a new cluster of electives with the overall designation of primary/ambulatory care. A student may select a four-week elective in Ambulatory Care, Psychosomatic Medicine or Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at MGUH, or Forensic Psychiatry at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in downtown Washington. Electives in research are also available at MGUH and Veterans Affairs Hospital. We are also able to offer a two-week selective during the third year for Child Psychiatry.