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 Physician Patient Communication, which emphasizes patient-centered interviewing skills 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 self-directed learning including online interview simulations, lectures, panel discussions, and patient demonstrations that are presented before the whole class. During this series we review screening for domestic violence, breaking bad news, communication in difficult patient encounters, evidence-based strategies for discussing health behavioral change, and other issues. In addition to this course, students are able to participate in both a department led and student led interest groups, Enhanced Experience in Psychiatry (EEP) and Hoyas Interested in Psychiatry (HIP). These opportunities afford students with additional clinical exposures, participation in a journal club to discuss cutting-edge research, and mentoring by department faculty.
The primary goals of the second-year course, Psychiatric Disorders, are learning the phenomenology of common mental disorders, the neurobiological and psychosocial aspects of these disorders, and strategies for 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, videotapes, and self directed learning activities.
In the third year, a rotating clinical clerkship in psychiatry is offered at MedStar Georgetown University Medical Center (MGUH) or one of the affiliates: the Washington Veterans Affairs Medical Center (WVAMC) or MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC). Students are assigned to one clinical site for four weeks, where they will function as a participating member of a multi-disciplinary treatment team. Students assigned to MGUH will work with either with the team on the inpatient psychiatric unit, the inpatient consultation-liaison team, or the outpatient partial hospitalization program team. All students at the WVAMC will spend three weeks with an inpatient psychiatry team and one week in an outpatient clinic embedded within a primary care clinic. All students at MWHC will be members of the consultation-liaison team. On each team, students will have the opportunity to form therapeutic relationships with patients struggling with a wide variety of mental disorders and to become familiar with the full array of treatments applied to their management. Each experience also provides students with the opportunity to see patients with serious non-psychiatric medical illness complicated by mental disorders, as well as interactions between major medical/surgical problems and psychiatric disability. We also offer a two-week Child Psychiatry selective during the third year.
The Department of Psychiatry joins other clinical disciplines in offering a 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. They may also enroll as Acting Interns (AI) in general adult Psychiatry – working with attendings and faculty on the Department’s inpatient hospital unit.
Electives in research are also available at MGUH and Veterans Affairs Hospital The department’s research faculty conduct behavioral and basic science research, clinical trials research, mental health services research, health-disparities research and community-based participatory research (CBPR) involving adults, teens and children. Some areas of focus include trauma and PTSD, anxiety disorders, engagement in mental health care in non-specialty mental health settings (e.g., primary care, faith-based community settings), teen dating violence, suicide prevention, mindfulness interventions, Huntington’s Disease and autism.
Our department is highly invested in the education of medical students at Georgetown School of Medicine and dedicated to graduating physician who have an understanding of the importance of mental health in the treatment of the whole person consistent with the School’s philosophy of cura personalis.