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Medical Student Education

Regardless of medical specialty, basic knowledge of the neurosciences, psychiatric illnesses, psychotropics, and psychiatric interview techniques is essential to the 21st century physician. The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences realizes this and devotes much of its resources to instilling this knowledge within our medical and other health professional students. We prepare our students to confidently manage psychiatric illnesses in whichever medical settings they emerge, whether that involves initiating treatments or referring the patient to the appropriate mental health provider.

This training begins in the very first year of medical school during the Foundations of Medicine phase. During this phase, students learn the basics of neuroscience, from embryologic development of the central nervous system to adult human neuroanatomy and brain physiology.  Later in this phase students learn about the neurobiology, the phenomenology and management of psychiatric illnesses, ranging from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder and major depression, from our expert faculty across the fields of psychiatry and psychology.

During the Applications phase, students rotate for six weeks at various sites across Atlanta including Emory University Hospital, Grady Memorial Hospital, the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, Skyland Trail, and Metro Atlanta Recovery. Students work on inpatient psychiatric units, on consultation-liaison teams, in outpatient clinics and in day-treatment recovery programs as team members, integral to the care of their patients. At many of these sites, students work alongside Emory Psychiatry residents and attendings, who provide invaluable clinical practice pearls through their daily bedside teaching. Additionally, the department provides students with weekly didactics to ensure all students receive a standardized, educational experience from expert teacher-clinicians.Throughout the rotation, students hone their psychiatric interviewing skills, develop comfort using the biopsychosocial model for case conceptualization and treatment planning, and develop tremendous empathy for the struggles of psychiatric patients that will influence their future patient interactions.

During the Discovery phase, NIH-funded faculty including Nadine Kaslow, PhD Kerry Ressler, MD PhD and Andrew Miller, MD provide research mentorship opportunities to students interested in exciting research areas such as the intersection of depression and inflammation, the genetics of posttraumatic stress disorder, and psychological interventions to reduce suicide and intimate partner violence. Students work directly with these faculty members and their teams to complete a hypothesis-driven research project and learn the basics of research during this 5 month period.

During the Translation of Medical Sciences phase, electives in HIV psychiatry, Emergency psychiatry, Electroconvulsive therapy, Forensic psychiatry and Med-Psych are available to those students who seek more in-depth experiences as they make their final decisions about their specialty-career choice or seek out more psychiatric preparation prior to beginning their residency training.

At the completion of this curriculum, our students graduate from medical school with a solid foundation for understanding the complexity of psychiatric illness and the various treatment options available. Reflecting the rich composition of mental health clinicians and researchers within our department, we foster within our students perspectives that appreciate biological mechanisms, psychological strengths/weakness, and social barriers/supports to help them address the whole person and not just the symptoms of a patient’s illness. In so doing, our students will be even more prepared for the 21st century practice of medicine.