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Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare

University of Cape Town via FutureLearn



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.”

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

Taught by

Steve Reid and Susan Levine

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4.9 rating, based on 92 reviews

Start your review of Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare

  • Anonymous
    I LOVED this course and its interdisciplinary approach. The only thing that I think is lacking is non-academic sources and more perspectives from patients and people. I think there were brief mentions where you do (like the perspective of the kids...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A new subject and approach for me. Very interesting and I hope the combination of the arts with conventional medical care as part of the treatment of long-term illness becomes widespread. I was especially interested because the course was presented by...
  • Rajkumar Benny completed this course.

    This is exactly the kind of course that I've been looking for quite some time, and I'm glad to have found it with the help of the learning platform-'Futurelearn'. Since I'm doing a different degree altogether, I took this course out of pure interest and...
  • Chrissie Loveday

    Chrissie Loveday completed this course.

    I would consider this course a gift for life in the sense of content and how thought provoking it is . I learnt a great deal about South Africa and its unique challenges and was mightily impressed by the commitment of the speakers on this course and their...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I found this a really good course. The approach is exciting, and is different from traditional approaches to medicine. It gives you a different way of seeing an area that we think we know. I have taken quite a lot of MOOCs, mainly free ones, as I am at...
  • Anonymous
    This course was a real gem. I still can't believe it was free. Lots of stimulating content, wide-ranging ideas, knowledgable speakers and do-able mini assignments to make you think. Even if you have nothing to do with Medicine and the Arts, there is something here for you, as everyone has a body in various states of health and we all have our own need and ability for self-expression. The interaction from other course participants was also very interesting and opened up even more avenues for material to explore.
  • Elazar completed this course.

    It was a heart-expanding experience of learning while walking.
    I have no doubt that I come out of the experience equipped with a broader perspective than I had with the beginning of the course. Perspective that makes me a better professional, but no less importantly, a better person.
    The learning experience only strengthened my sense of mission to convey the message to the various layers of human society in which I live.
    Mainly distribute it among professionals in the field of medicine in general, including those dealing with mental health ..
    Thank you all for the opportunity.
    It was a great privilege
  • Jacqui completed this course.

    I did this course totally out of personal interest and I absolutely loved it. The Future learn platform was really easy to navigate and user-friendly. The subject matter was diverse and totally interesting, with short mini lectures and reading material. I did all the reading but I did not do the assignments as I had too little time, but I do not think that should put anybody off. The online community was also wonderful and interesting. It is quite something to realize you are studying with people from all over the world. Highly recommended.
  • Anonymous
    A very interesting, thought provoking course. The way it is presented makes it easy to navigate around even for someone like me who is not particularly computer literate.

    I have done this course for interest and because I am a retired health professional who feels that interaction, listening to patients/clients is something we are losing in health care. I would highly recommend this course.
  • Anonymous
    Interesting and engaging course. Varied range of topics, which provoked refelction, and the links to resources were very useful. Good pace of course, and the differing modules were well selected. Peer reviews of the 2 assignments were helpful, though it was frustrating at the delay in getting one of the reviews, (took 4 weeks) , but it was ddone before rest of course completed, and was detailed.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I had been very curious about this perspective ofstudy which I think will be very useful, as it is already to rethink and build up a future in some countries if not all. I am amazed of how a suspicion, veri intuitive by my side was fully answered with comments, tasks, wonderful presentations and links. This has been one of the best thing I have explored and done during 2020's Covid quarantine. Congratulations to the UCT, and thank you very much, for opening this wonderful opportunity to public.
  • Anonymous
    This 6 week course is a wonderful, high quality resource - easy to follow with videoclips and materials arranged each week along a theme. The fact that it originated in South Africa makes it all the more interesting. The different perspectives from different disciplines indeed provided rich flavours and this course is great for anyone venturing into the medical humanities.
  • Anonymous
    On looking back over the course I realise we covered so much ground during these six weeks. The course challenged me to expand my thinking and showed that there is a movement within the medical profession to broaden their approach and to encompass other disciplines, specifically here, social sciences and the arts.
  • I followed this course, expecting it to take 6 weeks. However, the course was so thought provoking that it led to numerous side-steps to undertake further investigation on some of the subjects. It was a really enjoyable ride ... sharpening the mind with some very special perspectives. Thank you very much.
  • Anonymous
    This has been a beautiful journey with the course - 'Medicine and Arts - Humanising Healthacre'. It is obvious that a lot of work has gone into the making of this course since it takes into account different perspectives of the same problem. I have learnt a lot from this course.
  • Anonymous
    This was an excellent course. The application of literature, music and art for everyone involved in various health conditions was very well presented in a very well-designed programme. I would thoroughly recommend Medicine and the Arts to any interested parties, medical or otherwise.
  • Anonymous
    So interesting, The range of speakers included was so diverse and I particularly gained knowledge from the discussions with other learners and videos questioning the speakers. Thank you so much!!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent. High quality, lots of different perspectives covered. This really stimulated my desire to learn more. A good reading list included.
  • Anonymous
    Through this course, specifically, the first half of it is truly inspiring, very thoughtful, and specifically made in simple ways to let your mind absorb the knowledge with ease and required pace. Learning through different fields and how they all form a network within and without. The course takes you through an experience where you learn and understand how art heals, and how knowledge is power. Art heals through expressing, understanding, and openness to new experiences, while through knowledge, science, medicine, and other fields of studying a certain experience specifically and simple explained to details is a power where one will be able to cope and adapt with challenging and surprising experiences through out life.
  • Ariza Maria Rocha
    Six weeks and many things to think about the health, art, body and interdisciplinarity. The course show me the is possible change the medicine for create a medicine humanities. talking about madness and death is very difficult because there is a lot of fear, taboo, superstition and it drives away even understanding or how to help a person. Art through music, painting, dance, poetry, theater, playing is a way to create an understanding of the pain (empathy) of the other and the expression of a feeling to reach knowledge and respect for pain, illness, hurt and suffering . Thank you so much for all those reflections, change and the different way to be science and art for help the people

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