Information for Medical Students

Knowledge and skills in medical psychology are basic competencies that are of high relevance for physicians, which are needed in all clinical areas of their training, and their professional work. All medical faculties in German universities provide education in medical psychology, as it has been recommended by the German Society for Medical Psychology ( ).

The medical faculty at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf has gone even further by including medical psychology from the start to the end of the curriculum, thus intertwining basic and advanced clinical content. Since 2012, the medical faculty has implemented the “Integrative Model Curriculum for Medicine” (iMED), a future-oriented and progressive concept for medical education. Professors from all medical disciplines and their students have jointly developed a curriculum that integrates theoretical, basic disciplines with clinical practice. This concept is in accordance with the central recommendations of the Sciencific Advisory Board for Medical Training in Germany. Its aim is to systematically lead the students towards science-based medical practice. In addition to scientific training, the medical psychological curriculum emphasizes comprehensive practical, and psycho-social skills highly relevant for the medical profession.

Basically, the iMED curriculum has a modular character with a sequence of integrated areas of knowledge that are taught across different disciplines in an increasing level of complexity (spiral of learning). Within the modular curriculum, there is a two-week period each semester in which students choose a specific track that provides the possibility to learn about and to scientifically qualify in a specific area of medicine (so-called “second track”). The flexibility provided by the second track, together with the continued training in communication skills and clinical diagnostic skills greatly enhance the attractiveness of the curriculum.

In addition to examinations along the modules either as written, oral or practical (OSCE) examinations, a student thesis is required to be submitted at the end of the second track. This thesis is also thought to provide a perspective for the dissertation thesis within the last semesters to qualify for a MD title.

  • objectives
  • objectives

    Within the iMED curriculum , the Department of Medical Psychology provides training in several mandatory modules, as well as an elective module as a second track (Psychosocial Medicine and Health Care Research). The teaching language is German, but single seminars may be held in English. The learning targets in the medical psychology curriculum are based on the concepts included in the Catalogue of Learning Goals of Medical Psychology and Sociology, as provided by the respective regulatory agents ( ).

    Teaching objectives /Learning targets in medical psychology include:

    • Knowledge of psychological principles of human behavior and experience relevant to medicine
    • Awareness and understanding of the empirical basis of medicine and psychology
    • Application of psychological knowledge and skills within all aspects of etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and health care of diseases.
    • Acquisition of communication skills that enable an open, empathic, and appropriate approach towards patients and staff in the medical context
    • Awareness and understanding of central aspects of professional medical and psychological conduct
    • Acquisition of the mindful awareness of the self and others, in relation to medical interventions and in interaction with patients.

  • Teaching Activities

    Teaching of Medical Psychology is embedded in the sequence of many mandatory modules and is integrated in the specific contents of a module topic (such as development in childhood, Module D). Teaching methods comprise seminars, lectures, and practical training sessions as well as bedside teaching. Teaching content focusses on chronic diseases, shared decision making, environmental medicine, developmental psychology, psycho-oncology, psychological research and interventions, cultural diversity, and communication skills with special classes on patient-centered communication, shared decision making, communicating with culturally diverse patients, and communication with severely ill or dying patients.

    Lectures include topics like

    • patient-physician communication,
    • subjective theories of illness, prevention and coping with chronic diseases
    • psychological research methods,
    • theories of learning,
    • psychology of personality,
    • emotions,
    • psycho-physiology,
    • placebo response and effects, and
    • behavioral medicine.

    Other seminar and lecture topics are related to the application of medical psychology, such as

    • view of health from the patients’ experience,
    • evidence-based medicine,
    • synthesis of knowledge (meta-analysis),
    • co-morbidity between psychological and somatic health conditions,
    • psychotherapy,
    • mental disorders, e.g. anxiety disorders,
    • chronic pain,
    • cognitive restraints, e.g. dementia,
    • addictions,
    • as well as lectures regarding rehabilitation, physical medicine, and palliative medicine and care.

    In addition, the Department of Medical Psychology (in cooperation with other departments within the Center of Psycho-Social Medicine) coordinates the second track “Psycho-Social Medicine and Health Care Research” from the 2nd to the 10th semester, with seminars, practical training lectures, and excursions about various topics such as

    • psycho-social approach to health and disease,
    • psycho-social functioning and wellbeing,
    • etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and care in childhood, adolescence, and adults with psychological and somatic health conditions,
    • understanding mental health in the sociological context,
    • treatment of mental health conditions,
    • patient orientation in health care for mental conditions, and
    • health care research and their applications to mental health.

    In addition, our lecturers contribute to the faculty’s inter-disciplinary mandatory course “Introduction to Scientific Work” in the 1st semester.

    Finally, the Department of Medical Psychology is also actively involved in other second tracks, such as “Palliative Medicine”, “Intercultural Medicine”, “Preventive Medicine”, “Transplantation Medicine”, as well as “Oncology and Tumor Biology”. In addition to the medical curriculum, the Department of Medical Psychology offers different postgraduate seminars for PhD students as well as continued curricular education and training in teaching for department staff and external lecturers in medical psychology, research colloquia, continuous methods workshops and a clinical colloquium conducted by the psycho-oncological outpatient clinic.