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Walking up hills, through history and in-between disciplines: MHH and Health Sciences Education at the tip of Africa
  1. Carla Tsampiras
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carla Tsampiras, Primary Health Care Directorate, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, 7700, South Africa; carla.tsampiras{at}


Celebration, frustration, contestation and imagination all manifest themselves when examining the evolution of the field of Medical and Health Humanities (MHH) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). That this field has been growing at the same time as access to, inclusion in, and social justice issues linked to higher education have come under the spotlight has the potential to shape how we think and plan for the future of the field. Doing this will require treks up hills, journeys through difficult histories and dynamic dances in-between disciplines.

This article examines MHH at UCT broadly, referring to projects and programmes that are underway primarily in the humanities and health sciences faculties. From this overview, the article specifically examines the curricula changes introduced in the Faculty of Health Sciences inspired by MHH and the author’s interest in historical consciousness. It describes current points of intervention in physiotherapy and MBChB undergraduate curricula; and through short-term special study modules that have allowed those interested in MHH to explore relationships between health and healing and art, music, writing, yoga, PhotoVoice, drama, drawing and complex histories.

It discusses some of the challenges of introducing humanities teaching into health sciences curricula; and some of the tensions that result from the meeting of divergent epistemologies and pedagogies. The article considers if, and how, MHH might engage with social (in)justice, and inclusions and exclusions and potentially offer a balm to soothe the bruising effects of oppressive histories and a hegemonically hierarchical present.

  • health care education
  • medical humanities
  • politics
  • medical education
  • history

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  • Contributors CT is the sole author of this paper.

  • Funding This study was supported by University of Cape Town (internal research money from the PHCD).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.