Feature

Although psychologists are housed in just about every department of U.S. medical schools, traditionally, they have had no voice in medical education. That's now changed.

The Association of Medical School Psychologists (AMSP) was recently invited to join the Council of Academic Societies (CAS) of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The move gives psychology a role in setting the national agenda for medical education, biomedical research and health care.

"Membership in CAS recognizes psychology as a core discipline in medical education," says Cynthia Belar, PhD, APA executive director for education.

AAMC represents three major groups--medical schools, teaching hospitals and academic societies. AAMC's mission is to strengthen the quality of medical education and research and to integrate education into the provision of effective health care. The organization seeks to improve the nation's health through the advancement of medical schools and teaching hospitals.

CAS, made up of 92 academic groups, is a forum where decisions about medical education, research directions and emerging science discoveries are made. CAS members include faculty who represent medical school departments and academic societies--and are charged with helping medical schools and teaching hospitals pursue their primary responsibilities of research, education and patient care, according to the group's mission statement.

"CAS and AAMC seem to have the ear of the National Institutes of Health and government research groups," says Barry Hong, PhD, president of AMSP, a section of Div. 12 (Society for Clinical Psychology) and associate professor of medical psychology at Washington University. "If we're not in there contributing our voice, we're outside the major organization that sets the agendas."

"CAS is the pearl--all of the movers and shakers from medical schools throughout the country are on the council," notes Christine Carrington, PhD, AMSP secretary and assistant professor of psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine.

"It's a natural fit," says Tony Mazzaschi, director of CAS Affairs. "AMSP has a voice that should be heard."

Hong says CAS has been studying how little time primary-care physicians spend with patients.

"The medical community is coming to understand that despite technical and treatment advances, effectiveness depends largely on patient cooperation and compliance. We can contribute because we understand those issues," Hong says.