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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 83 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...
  • 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...
  • 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

    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...
  • 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

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A hugely enriching course - diverse in ingredients and giving both day jobs (including one as actor-reader stroke recovery and rehab wards) new dimensions... and, most helpfully, more and renewed value to the essential sensitivity / visceral nature - and silence - of a healthy creative practice - which itself can sometimes feel drowned in an ocean of digital technology and mass media noise.
    'Particularly appreciated the light touch / inclusive tone with which the material was delivered A super stimulating multi-layering of ideas and information. Thank you!
  • 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

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I recommend this course from Cape Town University highly. The lead educators, a medical anthropologist and a general practitioner, were joined by other professionals of many disciplines from forensics to poetry, to show how medical care can be humanised through a less biomedical, and more cultural and social approach. Thus the meaning of life events, from human creativity and reproduction, to illness and death, was explored in depth. This sparked so many ideas in my mind I will go forward in my own life enriched.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is an absolutely brilliant course! Each week you look at a topic within the healthcare system through a different perspective related to the arts, i.e. literature, sociology, anthropology, artistic performance. This broad overview really allows you to generate different perspectives and viewpoints. You will be challenged, you will change your views when you do this course.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I found this course insightful, careful, powerful, filled with creativity and knowledge and very, very helpful. Each week was a new take on Medicine and the Arts with a variety of presenters from diverse specialities. I found the whole process of viewing the videos, commenting, engaging in a global perspective and the cross cultural communication inspiring. I look forward to doing more in this vein.
  • Rose Gonçalves completed this course.

    It was a great experience. I have improved my knowledge in Applied Arts area in this specific field of Medicine Humanities. All teacher were very good skilled profesionals in different areas as Medicine, Social Sciences, Music, Poetry and Photography. They engaged a lot with their issues and they managed to keep the students motivated all along the course. I'm so glad for had completed this course. Thank you UCT team.
  • Petra Jerling completed this course.

    I really found the course very insightful. It was well presented and suitable for people of any background and level of education who are interested in the subject. I have gained knowledge as well as many creative ideas which I can use in my work as music therapist every day.
  • 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

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I liked this course Medicine and the art. it helped me get different opinions and view health care from different perspective
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    In 2015, I took the course Medicine and the Arts and enjoyed it but it didn’t have any direct relationship to my life. Taking the course again in 2020 was especially enlightening because as an active participant in a women’s health clinic in rural Mexico...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I have undertaken a number of MOOC courses through Future Learn. The course material, in terms of subject matter, depth, quality (particularly videos), presenters and guest presenters were all excellent. The course was challenging in terms of the subject...
  • Riley L
    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...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This was my first FutureLearn course and i thoroughly enjoyed it. The course material was presented in a variety of ways that allowed me to keep interested and not become bored with either just reading or listening all of the time. The site is easy to...

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