Dr. Chiarella Sforza is Professor of Human Anatomy in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Milan, and Director of the Laboratory of Functional Anatomy of the Stomatognathic and Locomotor Systems, within the university’s Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health. She has written more than 260 PubMed-indexed publications and has taught at the Universities of Sao Paolo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Moscow, Russia; and Zurich, Switzerland. In addition, she collaborates scientifically with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Manaus, Brazil, Medellin, Colombia; Khartoum, Sudan; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Dusseldorf and Göttingen, Germany. She received her MD and Ph.D. in Sports Sciences from the University of Milan.

Erik Campano: What do you love about your subject, ​anatomy?

Prof. Sforza: Anatomy is the clearest manifestation of life. Living things show themselves in their fullness and complex simplicity. Form, function, growth and remodeling: they are all under our eyes, and we can easily pick up their relationships in space and time, to uncover normality and alterations.

Please tell us something fascinating about your professional scientific research work.​

My research topics are mainly about human functional anatomy. I study the three-dimensional arrangement of facial structures, and see how they vary during growth, development and aging, both in health and disease. I also investigate three-dimensional body motion during daily actions and sports performances. I try to find the quantitative relationships among the topics investigated, and see how they vary from situation to situation.

What is it that you enjoy about teaching at IMS?

Teaching is a continuous challenge. You have to explain something to people with very different backgrounds, and you should do this trying to maintain attention and curiosity during the entire lesson. Teaching is an interactive activity, where no one is a passive receiver, but where everyone plays a key role. If successful, all of this is extremely rewarding.

From this point of view, IMS classes present even more of a challenge: students have very different backgrounds, motivations, and ages, and they are a handful, so keeping interest and interaction is much more complex and absorbing than with conventional University of Milan classes. Language also plays a role!

Please share some wisdom about how to be a great medical student.

I enrolled in my MD class in 1981. The organization of the MD course at the University of Milan was very different. You had to discover by yourself where and when lessons were delivered, and practicals were few, and places for them absolutely insufficient. So, you had to combine curiosity and study with a full-day run against time, for instance, to conquer your place in a room. But the teaching was first-level, so the fatigue was very well-rewarded. I learned that the best results came with continuous attention even to details, curiosity for hidden relationships, and love for the topics. And, when topics were not so much to your taste, you had to remember to keep your mind focused on the final result. Two final suggestions: do not waste your time, and try to work in a group.

Erik Campano