University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE The Art and the Science of Healing

LEVEL H - Higher Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION From time immemorial, the art of healing and its practitioners have had an important role in societies worldwide. Over the years, the characteristics and function of such practitioners, and medicine itself, have been in a state of flux and reacted variably to changes in cultural, religious and social milieux.

The historical development of medicine is an integral part of the social and cultural history of humankind itself, principally because issues of health and disease have always been a source of real concern over thousands of years in every community. Over the last hundred years, the progress of medicine has been both outstanding and without precedent, yet the role of medicine and the function of doctors is being increasingly questioned.

This Unit examines medicine and its practitioners from a variety of angles, some of which are orthodox, while others will take unusual views. The aim of the Unit will be to analyse the currently prevalent health culture in Europe and in the Maltese community reflecting the development through the ages of the community's beliefs about health promotion and illness prevention, disease causation and health maintenance, treatment and care. Thelinks between health care behaviour to social structure, political and economic systems and other sociocultural institutions will also be outlined.

Such parts of the human body as the face and the heart have long been the subject of literary narrative and art. This Unit addresses specific areas of the body in terms of interfaces between representation in art, health, technical applications and medical aspects. It further addresses issues of medicine and various forms of faith, from personal belief to societies’ faith in medicine and its practitioners.

The programme of studies addresses considerations of concepts and evolution in medical education and is concluded by a historical review of medical education in Malta.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Discuss the broad developments in the history of Medicine in terms of its evolution over the years from the magico-religious to the rational-scientific within the European context in general and within the Maltese context.
- Discuss in broad terms concepts of health and disease and their impact these have on communities.
- Discuss the place and developments of medical practice within the social and educational context together with the development of hospitals and the legal control to ensure the good health of the community.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Analyse the interface between the human body and art forms.
- Critically appraise the relationships of health and disease within the historical and cultural context of society.
- Identify the interlink between health care behaviour and social structure, political and economic systems and other sociocultural institutions

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Savona-Ventura C. Outlines of Maltese Medical History. Midsea Books, Malta 1997.
- Porter R ed. The Cambridge History of Medicine. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2006.
- Bird CE ed. Handbook of Medical Sociology. Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville 2010.
- Cauchi M. Health Issues Today: medical, societal and bioethical. University of Malta Press, Malta 2012.
- Online resources as advised by individual lecturers.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Group Learning

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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