Faces and stories of the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences: Marta Fadda

Marta Fadda

Marta Fadda

We continue our journey to discover the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences with Marta Fadda, post-doctoral researcher and lecturer, with whom we talk about social and cultural patterns, medical ethics and patient autonomy - a short trip around Switzerland, between Zurich, Bellinzona and Lugano, and a vist to the Middle East as well

Communication, ethics and new technologies are the key words that define Marta Fadda’s path in the health sector. After a master’s degree at the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies in Cultural Anthropology), she then completed her PhD in Health Communication at USI. She was then a post-doc researcher at the Health Ethics and Policy Lab of ETH Zurich and coordinator of clinical studies at the Istituto Oncologico della Svizzera italiana (IOSI).

The cultural anthropology of the Middle East was her focus during her studies in London, at the end of which reading and documentation was no longer sufficient, she wanted to get a closer view of that culture, so different from her own, and to dialogue with local people, strictly in their own language. Thanks to two grants from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she left for six months in Israel and one year in Syria. "I visited magical places and, above all, I learned Arabic, which allowed me to communicate directly and thoroughly with the many people I met and to discover their stories, beliefs and habits," says Fadda. Later, she identified USI as her next stop, the ideal place where she could acquire systematic research skills and where she carried out her doctoral studies at the Institute of Health Communication, led by Prof. Peter Schulz, on vaccination rejection among parents.

She currently works for the Institute of Public Health at USI and is a member of the Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+). The dialogue with the community in the region is a key element in the numerous research projects in which she is involved. "Knowing in depth the context in which medicine is practiced is as important as medicine itself", explains Fadda. "To have a genuine ’human’ medicine, we cannot ignore what intimately characterizes men and women: the cultural and social patterns within which we move, the way we build our identity and give meaning to our existence, health and illness". These elements play an important role in the doctor-patient relationship, a key feature in the study curriculum of the new students of the Master in Medicine, who during the period of clinical practice will be introduced to the cantonal hospital system. This is also where medical ethics and the principle of patient autonomy come into play, topics that are present in Marta Fadda’s career path. "My experience at ETH, first, and then at IOSI, has taught me that, in order to put people in a position to exercise their autonomy, it is essential to become aware of how we interpret this principle and the value we attribute to it. The advice I give to students is to get involved from day one in order to develop a critical awareness of their own values, beliefs and representations, so that they can actively listen to patients and, consequently, guarantee genuine respect for their autonomy".

Marta Fadda grew up near the sea and this contact with water is an important part of her leisure time in Ticino. With the new students who will occupy the East Campus, which is located along the Cassarate river, she wants to share a weekly routine of her own at the riverside: "On Sunday morning, a walk to the Cassarate outlet is must, it’s a place where I can spend a couple of hours away from the noise of traffic, lulled by the flow of water, strictly in the company of a good book".