"Psy-feld": Using "Seinfeld" in Psychiatric Education

"Psy-feld": Using "Seinfeld" in Psychiatric Education
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

What happens when you combine a popular 1990s television sitcom with medical education? You get “Psy-feld,” a teaching tool to assist medical students in identification and discussion of psychiatric disorders using the TV show “Seinfeld.” While not a formal course, it is a requirement in the training provided by Anthony Tobia, an associate professor of psychiatry at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.

Third- and fourth-year medical students in the hospital's psychiatric rotation are assigned to watch episodes airing on TBS at 6pm on Mondays and Thursdays; the following morning, they start rounds by discussing the psychopathologies exhibited in the episode. Is George suffering from narcissism because he neglects his own girlfriend to focus on Jerry's instead? Is Elaine's inability to forge meaningful relationships with men due to their delusional disorders? Is Newman “truly sick” because of his incessant quest for revenge against Jerry?

Students report that the episodes provide practical and relatable examples as a solid picture of the pathology, rather than a mere description in a textbook. Watching the show is not a replacement to traditional medical education, but dissecting the personality traits of the characters is an entertaining and informative means of learning for medical students (and perhaps psychiatrists alike).

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