Faces and stories of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences: Pietro Majno-Hurst

Prof. Pietro Majno-Hurst
Prof. Pietro Majno-Hurst

Institutional Communication Service

31 August 2020

Pietro Majno-Hurst is Professor at the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences as well as Head of the EOC Surgery Department and Head of the Surgery Service of Ospedale Regionale di Lugano (ORL). With Prof. Majno we will retrace the stages of his high-profile career and talk about environmental health, which is inextricably linked to human health.

Pietro Majno-Hurst graduated in Milan in 1986 and completed his training in surgery in the United Kingdom (1987-1992) before practising at university hospitals in Geneva and specialising in liver transplants in Paris between 1996 and 1997. In 2018 he took over the management of the Department and the Surgery Service of the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale (EOC, the cantonal hospital and healthcare provider), playing an important role also for the new Master in Medicine at USI, which will start in September 2020 and will include the collaboration, among others, with the EOC.

In December 2019, he was a guest on RSI's TV show "Il gioco del mondo", during which he talked about his professional and personal journey, comparing himself in an amusing way to the liver, the human organ that has become the focus of his studies.

On his experience as a student, Prof. Majno-Hurst recounts, "The first part of my journey as a medical student in Milan was relatively standard, essentially divided between studying and attending ex-cathedra courses. During my practice days, and knowing that I would have wanted to go abroad, I made some requests for internships that would have allowed me to further my knowledge in areas that I probably would not have pursued otherwise. For example, in the third year I took every opportunity to participate in autopsies under the guidance of a professor of Pathological Anatomy, who offered me in a short time an extraordinary amount of information. During my fourth year, I interned in a department of Internal Medicine with a professor with a contagious enthusiasm for cardiology, but also for the commitment of doctors against the proliferation of nuclear weapons that appeared, in 1982, as a real threat to public health. Also during my third year of studies, I won a scholarship in Geneva, where I wanted to go to reunite with friends close to my father who died that year. It was in Geneva that the rest of my family life begun. There, I met my first wife (now deceased), a young assistant in pathology who, in addition to working full time, was a single mother of two small children".

The doctor-patient relationship will be a key point in the study path of the students of USI Master in Human Medicine. "Try and learn at list basic information about the patient's personal history ('We are our own stories', Primo Levi said), starting from their job", is the advice of Prof. Majno-Hurst. "It is an often valuable starting point, which can make the patient feel like a human being and not only as a carrier of a disease, ideally on an equal footing with the caregiver, and this helps to establish a good therapeutic alliance. Modern technology makes it possible to communicate quickly, safely and extensively, and I find this to be a fundamental advantage we have over the practitioners who proceeded us".

Students who are about to populate the new USI East Campus will soon notice how Prof. Majno-Hurst prefers public transportation and bicycles to move around the city. Environmental health is an important issue for Majno-Hurst, along with the broader issue of sustainability. "I do not presume to make a difference, though I would like to... We feel like pawns - in a project that I share with my wife Samia Hurst-Majno, professor of bioethics in Geneva - perhaps more visible than others, in what I hope will be a growing stream of ecological and social awareness. I think that reducing our ecological impact today is an existential duty and that some behaviours are the result of not choosing, not looking carefully, and not engaging. All this would contradict my job as a surgeon, which requires and teaches exactly the opposite".

For young students who will be attending the Master's at USI, Ticino will be a place to explore and learn more about. Pietro Majno-Hurst knows Ticino well, a Canton that at the time welcomed his father and uncle on the run from the Republic of Salò, during the Second World War, and where he still has his family home - in Brissago - and memories of his holidays as a child. "If I were to recommend a visit to my students, it would be the Romanesque church of San Carlo in Negrentino, which is accessible by bicycle from Biasca, where the landscape of the Blenio Valley, architecture and painting complement each other in an enchanting harmony. Negrentino is a bridge between the Lombard and Transalpine culture, Ambrosian I would say, between the works of the Seregnesi and the interventions of Cardinal Borromeo: perhaps also, for this reason, it is particularly dear to me. A true jewel of the Romanesque of the XI century".