A Medical Geology curriculum for African geoscience institutions

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Medical Geology is an emerging interdisciplinary study on the connection between geological materials and processes and the health of man and animals. In this science, the principal aim of a formal curriculum would be to equip students with knowledge and skills on the interpretation of the geological impact on geographical distribution of diseases in the environment, and on human and animal health. Such knowledge would no doubt contribute immensely towards better diagnoses and therapy for many environmental health related issues that continue to plague the African people. Africa's unique geoenvironmental and pedological condition gives added relevance to such studies, underlining the need for geoscience and public health students in Africa to apprise themselves with the principles and applications of this study in their pre-professional training. In this paper, robust curricular M.Sc. programmes in Medical Geology are proposed for African geoscience institutions. A field based and project oriented curriculum format is advocated for each programme, with the objective of providing a vibrant learning environment that would enhance student development. But the design is also flexible, rendering the programmes adaptable to various didactic circumstances, such as the specific scientific backgrounds of candidates to be admitted into each programme, and the potential employment situation likely to be encountered upon graduation. It is recognised that to maximize the benefits of such programmes, entering students must have a background in the natural sciences, including basic knowledge of geological materials and geological processes; and if necessary, undertake at least a solid semester of elementary geochemistry (theory and laboratory work), since this discipline embodies the very foundations upon which the subject of Medical Geology is built. The modules provide extended enquiry-based investigations that employ real geochemical data sets, epidemiological records, public health statistics and visualisations, as well as performance assessments that provide evidence of Medical Geology knowledge and enquiry strategies seldom captured in traditional curriculum formats. At a time when African universities and research institutions are encouraging interdisciplinary studies, and new correlations between the geological environment and health continue to be discovered and interpreted around the Continent, the introduction of graduate programmes in Medical Geology seems all too appropriate and timely.




Davies, T. C. (2019). A Medical Geology curriculum for African geoscience institutions. Scientific African, 6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sciaf.2019.e00131

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