Online course in Creative Arts & Media

Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare

Explore the field of medical humanities - the intersection of the arts, humanities and healthcare - with this free online course.

  • Duration 6 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $54 Find out more

Why join the course?

This free online course will explore the intersection of medicine, medical anthropology and the creative arts. Through each of its six weeks, we’ll visit a new aspect of human life and consider it from the perspectives of people working in health sciences, social sciences and the arts.

Explore the emerging field of medical humanities

The course will introduce you to the emerging field of medical humanities and the concept of whole person care, via these six themes:

  • The Heart of the Matter: A Matter of the Heart
  • Children’s Voices and Healing
  • Mind, Art and Play
  • Reproduction and Innovation
  • At the Edge: Madness and Medicine
  • Death and the Corpse

Together, we’ll question our propensity to separate the body from the mind in healthcare, consider what defines humanity, and share points of connection and difference between art and medicine.

Learn with specialists from diverse fields

Contributors to the course will include a psychologist, psychiatrist, heart surgeon, pathologist, oncologist, sociologist, poet and visual artist. They will pose critical questions about how we deal with health, healing and being human.

Each has been filmed on location in Cape Town, including at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, the Heart of Cape Town Museum, and the Pathology Learning Centre.

Develop and discuss your own ideas

The course will encourage you to discuss your ideas with learners all over the world, and reflect on the ways in which bodies, health, social life, culture and the imagination intersect in your local setting. Together, we’ll ask:

  • How is it that academic disciplines have become so rigid in their focus that they sometimes struggle to talk meaningfully to general audiences and other specialists?
  • And what potential can we unlock by combining different fields of expertise and the silos of knowledge that otherwise separate them?

By the end of the course, you’ll understand multiple, complex perspectives on health, illness and healing, and be able to create alternative responses to important health challenges.

You can find out more in Susan Levine and Steve Reid’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “Introducing medical humanities: a new, interdisciplinary approach to healthcare.”

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 secondsHi. I'm Susan Levine, and welcome to the University of Cape Town.

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 secondsI'm sitting here in the old anatomy building. A century ago, it was built to house this university's first medical school. Now, it is at the heart of the university's fine arts campus, and it gestures towards the interdisciplinary nature of the themes of this course. I'm Steve Reid, and I'm the second lead educator for this course. And I'm standing here in the museum where the world's first heart transplant was done in 1967 in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. I'm a family physician, but I'm also a musician, and I'm constantly looking for new ways of addressing complex health issues like equity for social justice. And I suspect that an interdisciplinary approach holds the key.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 secondsIn the global south, local and global challenges include new forms of biotechnology, care in the context of HIV/AIDS, cancer, and tuberculosis. In this course, we explore the role of poets, artists, psychologists, and anthropologists in engaging debates around the body. What do the arts and humanities add to health care and health? And how is medicine understood in the context of the humanities or the arts?

Skip to 1 minute and 42 secondsJoin us as we explore this fascinating territory.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 5 Aug 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Identify interdisciplinary perspectives in health and humanities used in addressing complex healthcare challenges
  • Discuss how the arts and humanities contribute to improved healthcare practices
  • Understand the role of the arts in approaches to healthcare within six health-related topics
  • Contribute your local perspective and relate it to the perspective of others

Who is the course for?

This course is open to everyone. All that’s required is an interest in medicine, the arts or social sciences.

Who will you learn with?

Associate Professor Susan Levine &  Professor Steve Reid

Associate Professor Susan Levine & Professor Steve Reid

Susan: Associate Professor of Anthropology - School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics. Steve: Family Physician with experience in clinical practice, education and research.

Who developed the course?

The University of Cape Town is one of the leading higher education and research institutions on the African continent and has a tradition of academic excellence that is respected worldwide.

Join this course

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Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 8 weeks


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  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$239 for one year

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  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
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Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: