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Rutgers Med School Professor Using Seinfeld, 'Show About Nothing,' To Teach Psychiatry

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - "Seinfeld" may have been a show about nothing, but a psychiatry professor is using it for much more than that.

Medical students at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School are learning about psychiatric disorders through Dr. Anthony Tobia's "Psy-feld" teaching tool, 1010 WINS' Kevin Rincon reported.

Rutgers Med School Professor Using Seinfeld, 'Show About Nothing,' To Teach Psychiatry

"We actually tongue-in-cheek say it's anything but a show about nothing, it's a show about a pretty significant amount of psychiatry," Tobia said.

Tobia has created a database of teaching points from all the show's episodes-- something he told Rincon took him two years. Third- and fourth-year medical students are assigned to watch two episodes a week and then gather to discuss the psychopathology demonstrated on each.

"You have a very diverse group of personality traits that are maladaptive on the individual level,'' Tobia said. "When you get these friends together the dynamic is such that it literally creates a plot: Jerry's obsessive compulsive traits combined with Kramer's schizoid traits, with Elaine's inability to forge meaningful relationships and with George being egocentric.''

His diagnosis of Newman? "Very sick.''

The students gathered around a conference table on a recent day, analyzing an episode from the night before. Third-year student Marlene Wang said that the exercise leads to having more practical and relatable examples than a textbook.

"In this way, it just gives you a more solid picture of the pathology rather than just giving you words,'' Wang said.

"I had watched the show as a kid, certainly not understanding it to an extent that I think I do now," another student said.

As CBS2's Scott Rapoport reported, Dr. Tobia has himself diagnosed each character, calling Jerry 'obsessive-compulsive,' George 'egocentric if not narcissistic,' Kramer 'schizotypal,' and he said Elaine has 'difficulty forging meaningful relationships as an adult.'

Tobia has also written an academic paper that analyzes five of Elaine's boyfriends from the show to explain delusional disorder.

He also teaches a course where students tweet thoughts about characters' potential psychiatric disorders while watching films like ``Fargo.''

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