Mercer offers new clinical
medical psychology program
A new breed of student is studying at Mercer University
School of Medicine in Macon, Ga. — the first class of
students in the school’s new clinical medical psychology
The program’s emphasis on integrated care is what
distinguishes it from traditional health psychology
programs, says A. Melton Strozier, Jr., PhD, chair of the
psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Mercer.
“We call it clinical medical psychology instead of health
psychology because it is specifically designed to prepare
psychologists to be part of medical multidisciplinary
treatment teams,” he says. Working with a consultant
from a similar program at the University of Alabama
at Birmingham, Strozier and program director Steven
A. Hobbs, PhD, spent three years developing Mercer’s
The five-year program aims to train clinical
psychologists to be specialists in researching, diagnosing
and treating behavioral and psychological issues in medical
environments. When they graduate, these clinicians will
have the skills they need to work as members of integrated
health-care teams, especially in rural and other underserved
“We want to foster a new paradigm in which the health-care providers of treatment teams are mutually and equally
responsible for integrated patient care,” says Strozier.
In addition to regular classes, students have practicum
experiences with medical clinicians in the medical school
and affiliated hospital, where they conduct research and
work with patients with such conditions as addiction,
endometriosis and heart failure.
The response from physicians has been very positive,
says Strozier. The chief of the OBGYN department, for
instance, is eager for students to help him conduct research
and set up support groups for patients undergoing in vitro
“It’s a great training model for integration because it
gets students right into the culture of medicine,” says Bruce
Rybarczyk, PhD, an associate professor of psychology and
director of the clinical psychology program at Virginia
Commonwealth University. “Other students have to learn
that later, after they get a practicum experience or a job in a
medical setting; these students will learn it from the ground
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