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Acad Psychiatry. 2005 May-Jun;29(2):134-40.

The challenge of teaching psychopharmacology in the new millennium: the role of curricula.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.

Erratum in

  • Acad Psychiatry. 2005 Jul-Aug;29(3):324.



For a variety of pedagogical, political and financial reasons, there are major problems in achieving effective teaching of cutting-edge psychopharmacology for psychiatric residents. This article focuses on ways to improve the teaching/learning process, in part through the use of structured curricula. The authors review 1) attempted solutions to the educational problems, including use of the 1980s American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) and 1990s American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology (ASCP) model curriculums; 2) evaluation of and obstacles to change; and 3) suggestions of what to do now.


A psychopharmacology curriculum was prepared in the early 1980s under the auspices of the ACNP and in the 1990s and early 2000s by the ASCP in three editions. Three separate surveys of training directors and Chairs of departments using the curriculum, informal feedback from a variety of psychopharmacology experts, interactive presentations at national meetings (e.g., ACNP and AADPRT) served to guide development and revisions of the curriculum.


Three formal follow up evaluations over two decades of users of the curriculum have suggested that it is not enough to have a strong content of what needs to be taught. In addition, a successful psychopharmacology curriculum must have 1) the pedagogy, (i.e., features like pre-post questions, teaching points, etc.) to facilitate use of the many facets and considerable amounts of information; 2) advanced technology to make the content current, adaptable, and both teacher- and student-friendly; 3) accompanying strategies to allow buy-in from training directors and teachers who have had no role in development; 4) reasonable cost to allow wide-spread dissemination while covering preparation expense (preferably without industry support); and, finally 5) evaluation of competence both at the end of training and post-residency in actual practice.


The long-term objective of improving the teaching/learning process is to improve the clinical practice of psychopharmacology.

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