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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.

41,695 enrolled on this course

Mosaic body maps
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

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 seconds Hi. I’m Susan Levine, and welcome to the University of Cape Town.

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds I’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 seconds In 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 seconds Join us as we explore this fascinating territory.

What topics will you cover?

  • The medical humanities and interdisciplinarity
  • Different understandings of the human heart
  • Children’s experience of illness and healing
  • Relationships between the mind, art and play
  • Creativity and innovation in healthcare
  • Representations of mental illness
  • Medical, social and cultural understandings of death

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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?

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?

University of Cape Town

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.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

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