Claudia M. Witt, MD, MBA

portrait of claudia witt

Home Institution: University of Zurich

Field: Integrative and Digital Health Interventions

Current Positions: 

My Driving Question

How can clinical research generate better evidence to help people make more informed choices?

Scholar Project

Dr. Witt believes that Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) and participatory research have the potential to unlock much of the evidence that can increase choices available to patients, especially those suffering from chronic disease. As a Nova Institute Scholar, Dr. Witt has been engaged in the development of Effectiveness Guidance Documents for CER, teaching clinical research methods and CER to international audiences, and generating papers in subjects ranging from acupuncture research guidance to the impact of corporate culture on mergers involving integrative medicine services and digital health approaches.

 

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER): CER provides better evidence for better decisions, and Dr. Witt is focused on advancing the field of CER for complementary and integrative medicine. With the development of recommendations and Effectiveness Guidance Documents, she has made a landmark contribution for future research.

Corporate culture principles from mergers in Integrative Medicine: The integration of conventional and complementary medicines in a hospital or clinic requires the “marriage” of two distinct cultures in an effort to provide integrative health care services. By exploring the principles of corporate culture as used for mergers in the business world, Dr. Witt has been at work to develop a set of recommendations that facilitate smooth transitions for health care entities interested in the implementation of integrative medicine services.

International Research Training: Dr. Witt provides hand-on research methodology trainings. Her instruction focuses on two key areas:  basic study design and basic statistics and the design of pragmatic trials for CER.

Biography 

Claudia Witt is a full professor at the Medical Faculty of the UZH and director of the Institute for Complementary and Integrative Medicine of the University Hospital Zurich. She is a physician and epidemiologist and holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Health Care Management.

From 2017-2021, she was Vice Dean for Interprofessionalism and Internationality of the Medical Faculty of the UZH. She heads the doctoral program for Care and Rehabilitation Science and is co-director of the Digital Society Initiative at the UZH. She is also part-time Professor for Primary Care at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Before her appointment to Zurich, she worked at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, which she last headed provisionally and held a Professorship for Complementary Medicine.

Claudia Witt’s research focuses on the evaluation of non-pharmacological interventions in integrative medicine, as well as non-specific factors such as therapy outcomes. To answer her research questions, she engages stakeholders and applies methods of clinical research, health economics, implementation science and neuroimaging. In her current research, participatory and digital health aspects play an important role; she has been conducting clinical studies on mobile health interventions since 2011. She advocates a reflective approach to digitalization in medicine. 

Her publications could be accessed here.

Curriculum Vitae

See Dr. Witt’s CV

 
Selected Publications

Comparative Effectiveness Research

Mergers

Research Training

Developing safety, persistence, trust

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.”

Acquiring Resources

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.
    • “I think I kept trying to convince him I was crazy. And he kept saying, ‘No, you’re not crazy.’ […] You wouldn’t necessarily say a Vietnam Vet was crazy. You’d say they are responding like you’d expect to extraordinary circumstances.”
    • “I’m not the only one who have [sic] this problem. A lots, millions of people, you know. […] They don’t have nothing to do with that. I guess I have to live.”
  • 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.”
    “You need a lot of energy and a lot of work … it takes a lot of work. It doesn’t just happen. It’s not like a magic wand.” This patient understood that they had to actively participate in the healing process.
  • 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.

Helping Relationships

“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

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. Healing, in this sense, does not mean cured—none of the study participants were cured of their ailments—”but all developed a sense of integrity and wholeness despite ongoing pain or other symptoms.” In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” When we begin to heal, we find increased capacity for hope, renewed motivation to help others, and are more able to accept ourselves as we are.

Suffering

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding

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.”