During the almost 40 years of my research activity I have explored different areas of occupational and environmental health with strong focus on linking research activity to practice, adhering to the principle of evidence-based medicine. This still characterizes my scientific activity (and the one of my coworkers).
The initial period (1980-1990) of my research activity is characterized by a specific interest toward the application of the electrophysiological techniques (learned during a fellowship at the Department of Physiology of the University of Liverpool in 1981) to the study of work-related diseases, specifically to the exposure to pesticides and solvents. Emblematic of that period are some papers on neuropathies associated with the exposure to organo-phosphorous pesticides and solvents, mostly published on Italian scientific journals. During the same years, I developed a specific interest toward clinical epidemiology and environmental and occupational toxicology (primarily applied to the study of environmental and occupational exposure to organo-chlorine pesticides).
Afterwards (1990-2000), the interest toward the application of electrophysiologic techniques to occupational medicine brought me to apply them to the study of the upper arm disorders, and specifically to the carpal tunnel syndrome. In this field I started an intense series of international relations (still ongoing), in particular with the Center for Ergonomics of University of Michigan and other centers in the United States and Europe. At the same time, I strived to find the human and financial resources needed to equip an electrophysiology and biomechanics lab to investigate the occupational upper limb musculoskeletal diseases (mostly for the study of nerve, muscles and tendons), a toxicology lab equipped with high quality instruments for chemical analysis and an epidemiology lab. In those years I started to publish my first papers on occupational musculoskeletal diseases and I organized the first national congress held on this topic in Italy (Italian Society for Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene Bologna, 1995).
Subsequently (2000-2010), having collected the necessary human, instrumental and financial resources, I started an intense research activity on musculoskeletal disorders, epidemiology, occupational and environmental toxicology and preventive medicine, as recorded by a number of papers published in journals with Impact Factor, book and chapters of books published by international publishers. With regard to the environment, I have been a member of the Scientific Committee of the MONITER project of Emilia-Romagna Region (impact of waste incineration on environment and health) and I have been in charge of the Health Impact Assessment of major Italian road infrastructures projects, such as the Tirreno-Brennero motorway, the Outer Milan Parkway (Tangenziale Esterna Milanese) and the Cispadana motorway.
My recent activity (2010 to the present) has focused more on epidemiological methods (both cancer epidemiology and other diseases), musculoskeletal epidemiology, global health issues and health economics. One of the most recent research project I am involved in, as a national expert for Italy, is the Global Burden of Disease Study, run by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (Prof. CJ Murray) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I am also the principal investigator of the world’s largest longitudinal study published to date on work-related carpal tunnel syndrome (4,000 workers, 10 years of follow-up). Currently, I am also working with several companies to improve ergonomics and efficiency of manufacturing process. Some innovative products have been devised during this research, currently awaiting to be assigned international patents, and others are being actively developed.
I have always valued international collaboration in research and training: I have been responsible for setting up (and I am presently overseeing on the Bologna side) a Memorandum of Understanding for common research projects, exchange of teachers and students, between the School of Medicine of the University of Bologna and the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.