A Survey of Psychiatry Course Offerings for Fourth-Year Medical Students



Fourth-year course offerings seem to vary widely among psychiatry departments with some offering a wide selection while others offer little or unspecified opportunity. The purpose of this study was to learn the distribution and diversity of fourth-year medical school psychiatry courses and identify unique course offerings that may inspire other departments.


The authors compiled a list of US allopathic medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) using the LCME website. They accessed each school’s website catalog and recorded all psychiatry electives available to fourth-year students listed in the catalog or the Visiting Student Application Service® (VSAS®) database. The authors calculated median published course offerings per department and categorized each course according to learning opportunity.


The authors identified 142 fully accredited allopathic medical schools of which n = 126 listed fourth-year medical student courses on their website or through VSAS. The median number of fourth-year psychiatry course offerings per school was 6 (range, 1–22). The most frequently offered courses were inpatient psychiatry (n = 105 schools), child and adolescent psychiatry (n = 95), and consultation psychiatry (n = 84). The authors also identified unique enrichment courses in media, women’s health, ethics, research, and cultural psychiatry.


The fourth-year curriculum varies widely among institutions. Hypotheses to be tested are if prioritizing robust fourth-year rotations include improved resident readiness, improved retention of home students into the training program, improved recruitment of visiting students, increased faculty scholarly activity and career development, and improved recruitment into the subspecialties.

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An abstract poster of this study was presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Association for Academic Psychiatry (AAP) in Milwaukee, WI

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Correspondence to Aline B. Cenoz-Donati.

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Cenoz-Donati, A.B., McKinley, J.C. & Schillerstrom, J.E. A Survey of Psychiatry Course Offerings for Fourth-Year Medical Students. Acad Psychiatry 44, 741–744 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-020-01300-2

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  • Medical student education
  • Senior medical students
  • Electives