Seinfeld as a teacher of psychiatry

AP File photo.
You were doing medical school-level work back in the day when you watched Seinfeld.

Every Monday and Thursday, third- and fourth-year medical students in a New Brunswick, New Jersey hospital’s psychiatric rotation are assigned to watch a syndicated episode of “Seinfeld,” writes today.

Anthony Tobia, an associate professor of psychiatry at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, created the teaching tool to help medical students recognize psychiatric indicators.

Tobia is so sold on the concept he’s created a database of every “Seinfeld” episode and its teaching points. All 180 episodes and nearly every character in the series can be used for Psy-feld, he said.

For instance, five of Elaine’s boyfriends are the topic of an academic paper Tobia penned explaining how the men display core character traits that match the themes of delusional disorder.

Other characters, like Jerry’s foil, Newman, are “very sick,” Tobia said.

“Newman’s sense of self, his meaning in life, is to ensure that he frustrates Jerry,” Tobia said. “We actually have talked about Newman in that context and related him to Erik in ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ The Phantom, while he starts out as being the tutor to the Prima Donna, actually has his life change and he is bent on revenge and that becomes who he is… and that’s Newman.”

“You start watching and you’re like, ‘What is going on with George?’” one student said.

Another said she’s getting more practical information out of watching Seinfeld than she is out of textbooks on psychiatry.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    So the supposed “show about nothing” was really a video textbook for future psychiatrists.

  • Gary F

    Or, it was just a funny show. I watched “the magic lougie” episode the other night. Still one of the best skits ever.

  • Jack

    I love Seinfeld. Such a funny show, but I have often thought that there is no way I could ever develop a friendship with people who behave in the way they do. Too, too much drama and craziness. So Bob, does the HR department ever plant little nano-cams in your computers to psycho -analyze their employees while they are on the job?

  • davehoug

    THAT is why the best writers are grand observers of the human condition. They must condense a whole character’s life into a portrait we can all recognize. When their portraits resonate with our experience, we applaud.