The core mission of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is to assure high-quality psychiatric care. Its work includes attention to patient care, research, and education. In the 1950s, an initiative by the APA led directly to the requirement for psychiatric clerkships in all Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accredited medical schools (the "Ithaca Conference"). Since then, while medical student education has received some attention, the primary focus has been on practitioners, residents, and fellows.
However, several factors have mandated a new focus on medical student education. These include an increasing awareness of the need to prepare all physicians to understand the psychiatric components associated with patient care; recent work by national organizations offering new perspectives on medical student education to provide high-quality care (1); and an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report identifying a lack of medical education in behavioral sciences, including psychiatry as a weakness in the current educational environment (2).
Medical education must respond to the increasing burden of psychiatric illness nationally and to the role of psychiatry in improving culturally appropriate medical care. "Educating a New Generation of Physicians in Psychiatry" is a multiphase project to enhance medical student education in psychiatry. A foundational step in this project was President Michelle Riba’s Summit meeting, cosponsored with the Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry (ADMSEP). This summit, held in April 2005, started the consensus process among psychiatry education leaders on how best to "reconceptualize" and restructure medical student education in a time of major challenges to education and teaching in medical schools. It explored the questions:
1. What should we teach medical students?;
2. How should psychiatry be taught in medical schools?; and
3. What are the special issues that affect our teaching?
The full summit program, as well as information about other components of the project, is available at http://www.psych.org/edu/med_students/summitnew.cfm.
This issue of Academic Psychiatry includes several of the stimulus papers presented at the summit. They offer thought provoking perspectives on the financing of medical education; use of technology; developing curricula for all students, whether entering clinical psychiatry, neuroscience research, or primary care; fostering research training in psychiatry and neurosciences; and psychiatry’s role in addressing the elimination of disparities, increasing diversity of the workforce, and cultural competence. The authors of these articles anticipate that their papers will generate feedback regarding innovative programs at your institutions and suggestions for future work at APA. These authors and the APA staff look forward to your comments and recommendations.