Utilizing psychodynamic principles to teach professionalism to medical students through an innovative curriculum Article

Rothe, EM, Bonnin, R. (2020). Utilizing psychodynamic principles to teach professionalism to medical students through an innovative curriculum . 48(4), 477-497. 10.1521/pdps.2020.48.4.477

cited authors

  • Rothe, EM; Bonnin, R


  • Professionalism is a fundamental expectation of practicing medicine and a core competency in medical education, yet the methods of how to teach and evaluate it are still experimental. Professionalism involves self-reflection, a psychodynamic understanding of the patient’s and the doctor’s predicament, and conflict resolution, so psychiatrists are uniquely qualified to teach it. This article describes an innovative course that utilizes psychodynamic principles to teach professionalism to medical students. The authors present a novel 2-year curriculum for teaching professionalism to first- and second-year medical students utilizing psychodynamic principles to help develop awareness of others’ feelings and motivations, self-reflection, compassion, empathy, and skills in ethical conflict resolution by means of written and oral narrative exercises. Outcomes are evaluated by the student ratings about the course and the faculty, and by using the test for emotional intelligence (EI), administered as a baseline and then at the end of each year. Each subsequent year the students demonstrated a statistically significant increase in EI scores, student evaluations of the course ranked among the highest in the medical school, clerkship supervisors and residency training directors noted the high degree of professionalism of the students, and the number of student applicants to psychiatry residency were consistently higher than the national average. In addition, this course was awarded the 2018 Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society’s Edward B. Harris Medical Professionalism Award for the best professionalism course of U.S. medical schools. Psychodynamic principles are fundamental for teaching medical professionalism at a medical-student level. Professionalism also serves as a way to introduce students to psychiatry early in the curriculum, and psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are uniquely qualified to teach medical professionalism.

publication date

  • December 1, 2020

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 477

end page

  • 497


  • 48


  • 4