We live in an exciting time in psychiatry. Just think: only fifty years ago, there was virtually no effective psychopharmacology. Many of the psychotherapies that have evolved either didn't exist or were in their infancy and much of the psychiatric literature was anecdotal, with few controlled, randomized trials. Today our understanding of human behavior and psychopathology has increased exponentially, from the level of the neuron to the family unit to the societal influences on behavior and emotions. Hopefully, this course will help dispel any misconceptions that psychiatry is not a "hard" science.
Whether you are most interested in cardiothoracic surgery or psychiatry, this course is for you. Of course I'm biased, since I chose psychiatry as my specialty, but I am amazed at how often friends and colleagues who became surgeons, internists, and family practitioners tell me that if there is one area they wish they had more background in, it's psychiatry. An internist once estimated that 40% of her patients were being seen for primarily psychological reasons and over half had major psychological issues that had to be understood and dealt with in order to deliver effective care. Devoting yourself to this course now will pay rich dividends in your future practice.
The heart of this course is a series of a lectures on which all of the exam questions will be based. This on-line electronic mini-textbook is a supplement to the lectures. Please remember it is only a supplement. Hopefully it can serve as a guide and a tool to help you organize your understanding of human behavior and psychiatry. The convenience of hypertext links make it easy for you to click on any underlined word or phrase to get more detailed information. The fact that this can be viewed with any Web browser means you need not learn any new software commands; you can bookmark, go backward and forward, just as you can with any pages on the Internet. Together with the lecture transcripts, your own personal notes, and any additional reading you choose to do, it should help make everything crystalize.
We will also be using Dr. Alan Stoudemire's textbooks, Clinical Psychiatry for Medical Students, 3rd Edition, and Human Behavior: An Introduction for Medical Students, 3rd Edition. These excellent sources - recommended but not required - will allow you to delve deeper into topics of interest and to prepare yourself for lectures and exams. Although all exam questions will come from the lectures, reading the text will help crystalize what you hear in lecture.
From time to time, there will be discrepancies between what you read in this electronic guide and what you hear in lecture. I would encourage you to consult a standard psychiatric textbook or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition, as the final arbiter of any disagreement. If it turns out there are factual or interpretive errors in this document, please call me immediately so that they can be corrected. However, it is inevitable that the content of some lectures will conflict with each other or with this guide. This is a reflection both of the ambiguity of the field and the tendency of different psychiatrists and mental health professionals to interpret the same data differently at times. The bottom line: in answer to the ultimate question, "What Will Be On The Exam?", this guide, based heavily on past study guides, will most likely conform to what you will see on the exam. As I have told former students, however, what is most important is not what you learn for an exam, but what you take out of the classroom and apply to the wards. Some tolerance of ambiguity and disagreement is essential.
If you have any questions or concerns during the course, or simply wish to discuss psychiatry or any of the topics that come up in more detail, feel free to contact me or Dr. McDonald.
Mark Vakkur, M.D.