What is the future of social medicine? Michelle Pentecost was invited to give a keynote lecture for the event ‘The Novel Stakes of Social Medicine’ organised by Medical Anthropology Switzerland (MAS) at the University of Lausanne. By kicking off the discussion with the question: ‘what counts as “here”?’, Michelle Pentecost brings a focus to the important distinctions of ‘being here’ and ‘not being here’, and what this entails in social medicine. The lecture approaches the question of presence through three different angles: the history of social medicine in South Africa, boundary work in biomedicine and scalar social medicine. This approach ultimately establishes the main intersecting areas of concern of social medicine in the 21st century.