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Date: 2015-09-15
Title: Creating a Neuroscience Curriculum at the University of São Paulo

Brazil’s residents at the University of São Paulo’s Department of Psychiatry face a striking problem in their neuroscience curriculum. As they complete a residency focused on classical psychodynamic teachings, they find themselves entering a postgraduate world where modern neuroscience is the mainstay of research and treatment, departing from psychodynamic theories and therapies.

Dr. Zeina Chemali, the Global Division’s Director for Neuropsychiatric Outreach, has endeavored to change this, collaborating with the University of São Paulo’s residents, mentoring them as she introduces a neuroscience curriculum, and preparing a new generation of physicians for the competitive psychiatric demands in South America and around the world.

Dr. Chemali’s dynamic curriculum employs a myriad of teaching strategies to introduce psychiatry residents to the many facets of neurology and neuropsychiatry. During her August trip, Dr. Chemali taught comprehensive clinical assessments with bedside clinical examination as well as the use of data such as neuroimaging and neurophysiology to confirm or refute the patients’ diagnoses. This comprehensive overarching integrative multidisciplinary approach delivers best-focused patient-centered mind-body, neurology-psychiatry care.

Dr. Chemali also ran didactics on a span of neuropsychiatric syndromes, viewing disorders such as epilepsy, dementia, traumatic brain injury, stroke, cancer, and addiction from a neuroanatomical and neurocircuitry perspective. Residents participated in group case studies, looking over cases, understanding the pathophysiology and clinical signs at stake creating differential diagnoses, learning which tests to order to accept or refute their clinical hypotheses, and which are the most optimal psychopharmacological and psychotherapies to implement for each case.

Throughout Dr. Chemali’s visits to São Paolo, assessments on learning have been provided to measure the residents’ progress as well as quality of the teaching, and what differences were seen using those teaching methods for the new curricula.

Even when Dr. Chemali is not in Brazil, the partnership she has created remains. She continues to supervise cases, discussions, and journal clubs through a Google Group she shares with the residents, maintaining a mentorship role despite the obstacle of distance. Presently, she is collaborating on a white paper with the University of São Paulo to show how residents benefit from this program, in the hopes that other regional academic programs in Brazil may follow their lead.

Dr. Chemali is dually boarded in neurology and psychiatry and is the Director of the Neuropsychiatry Clinics and Training Program at MGH.