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Claudia M. Witt, MD, MBA

Home Institution: University of Zurich

Field: Digital health for mind and body

Current Positions: 

My Driving Question

How to cultivate a responsible and balanced approach that recognizes the interdependence between individuals, teams, and the broader environment during the digital transformation of health care?

Scholar Project

As a Nova Scholar, Claudia M. Witt is dedicated to promoting responsible digitalization in healthcare. Leveraging her extensive experience and comprehensive knowledge of digitalization in prevention and healthcare, she is developing frameworks for future interactions between people, the broader environment, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Additionally, she is establishing standards for clinical research on digital interventions to enhance future studies. She believes in participatory innovation and is committed to fostering a collaborative and creative culture where everyone’s input is valued to drive meaningful progress.

In previous Nova projects, Claudia M. Witt made internationally recognized contributions to the development of Effectiveness Guidance Documents for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). She has also taught clinical research methods and CER to international audiences. She believes in participatory innovation and is committed to fostering a collaborative and creative culture where everyone’s input is valued to drive meaningful progress.

Biography 

Claudia M. Witt, MD, MBA, is an outstanding expert in digital health and integrative medicine. She is one of the few physicians elected to the senate of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences which acts as a bridge builder between science and society, an honor awarded for exceptional scientific achievements in medicine. In her various professional roles, Dr. Witt adopts a comprehensive perspective on health and healthcare and advocates for an interdisciplinary and balanced approach to healthcare and its digital innovations. 

She is a full professor of medicine at the University of Zurich (UZH) and serves as the director of the Institute for Complementary and Integrative Medicine at the University Hospital Zurich. In her leadership role as co-director of the Digital Society Initiative (DSI), UZH’s competence center for digital transformation, she actively shapes the digital future. As a member of UZH’s Digital Strategy Board, she advises the University’s Executive Board on strategic digitalization matters. This includes trend scouting, think tanks, and action programs. As steering board member of UZH’s One Health Institute, she promotes a digital transformation with AI that considers the well-being of humans, animals, and the preservation of environmental resources. She is committed to ensuring equitable access to future digital healthcare and empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their data and healthcare. As an integrative medicine doctor, she employs evidence-based strategies to enhance resources and self-efficacy in individuals, empowering them to actively participate in their treatments. 

Her clinical work combines digital health approaches with mind-body practices and lifestyle modifications. In her research she addresses questions from translational to implementation research, utilizing quantitative and mixed methods, and involving stakeholders in participatory research. She has extensive experience conducting clinical trials including health economic evaluation. She also applies user-centric and participatory approaches to develop strategies and recommendations. Teaching is her passion, particularly in guiding health professionals and students. She is committed to sharing knowledge and empowering people to make informed decisions about their health. 

Claudia M. Witt is a trained medical doctor and research methodologist with extensive expertise in digitalization, holding an MBA in healthcare management. From 2017 to 2021, she served as Vice Dean for Interprofessionalism and Internationality at the Medical Faculty of UZH, where she also heads the interprofessional doctoral program for care and rehabilitation science. Additionally, she leads the Integrative Medicine and Digital Health Research Group at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics at Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany. From 2013 to 2023, she held a part-time professorship in primary care and community medicine at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.

Her publications can be accessed here.

Education and Training
  • Executive Program AI in Health Care, MIT 
  • MBA Berlin School of Economics 
  • Doctorate (Dr. med.) Humboldt University Berlin
  • Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin and Ruhr Universität Bochum
Selected Honors
  • Fellow of the SCIANA Health Leader Network in Europe
  • Member of the Senate of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences
Selected Publications

Digital Health

Comparative Effectiveness Research

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is some debate about whether people always experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.