Psychiatry Medical School Education

Clinical Psychiatry Experiences for Medical Students

Medical student education receives heavy emphasis at BIDMC and its affiliate, the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC). We teach introductory psychopathology to Harvard medical students in their first year and offer a wide variety of clinical experiences for students in their core and elective rotations. The overall emphasis is on learning about patients as people; about both who they are and the illnesses they have.

Third-year students may work on a locked inpatient unit or a consultation team to the medical/surgical/emergency services at the Medical Center, or in an outpatient setting at MMHC, a community mental health center. Fourth-year students may choose an advanced experience at any of these settings or may do a community psychiatry elective, working closely with homeless outreach programs.

On our inpatient unit, students are immersed in the treatment of acutely ill individuals, where they participate actively as part of a multidisciplinary treatment team. Students often function as the patient's primary clinician in this role. Students get a broad exposure to psychotic illnesses, substance abuse, and personality disorders, as well as to the complexities of health care delivery to a population in which homelessness is common.

Our Consultation service involves students in the complexities of treating psychiatric illness on medical, surgical, and OB/GYN services. Students become very familiar with the clinical presentations of the broad range of psychiatric diagnoses including delirium, dementia, and adjustment to medical illness, as well as with issues relating to decisional capacity.

The outpatient experience at MMHC offers two options for students. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) track is an intensive exposure to the treatment of patients with severe and persistent mental illness; the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) track allows students to learn about working with patients suffering from borderline personality disorder.

During the core clerkship, students have almost a full day of classroom work, including clinical exposure to child psychiatry, electroconvulsive therapy, and the performance of mental status exams.

Residents play an integral role in psychiatric education at BIDMC. They are the "front-line" teachers and their participation in strongly encouraged. Each year two residents are honored at graduation for their excellence in student teaching.

The co-directors for student education are Michael Kahn, MD, and Marisol Segundo, MD.