Women in Science Day 2021


HHT-Cavalcoli“It is a real pleasure for our Foundation – Onilde Carini – to celebrate the World Day of Women and Girls in Science with a special interview with Dr. Federica Cavalcoli , researcher and gastroenterologist at the Zucchi Clinical Institutes of Monza, with particular interest in diagnostics and gastroenteric expression of HHT.”


Question 1: Where did your interest in science start?
I’ve always been curious. Trying to understand the causes of phenomena or more specifically of the mechanisms of the human body has always been one of my interests as well as wanting to help people. The revelation for me was a first aid course I took at 18. For these reasons the choice of the university faculty after the scientific high school was simple: I would have become a doctor.

Question 2: What made you interested in HHT?
Already from the first approach to textbooks, the physiopathology of hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia appeared to me extremely fascinating. The clinical manifestations of HHT are heterogeneous, ranging from modest cutaneous manifestations, to mild anemia up to manifest bleeding and therefore represent a real diagnostic challenge. Later during the specialization course I had the opportunity to work with HHT patients at the Ospedale Maggiore in Crema and I understood the problems of managing this pathology and the difficulties that patients with HHT have to face.

Question 3: How does your work affect the lives of HHT patients?
In clinical practice I have the opportunity to perform endoscopic examinations (gastroscopies and colonoscopies) and ultrasound scans in HHT patients, helping in the diagnosis of possible complications and in the long-term follow-up of these patients. Furthermore, a relevant component of my work is that of clinical research which allows me to deepen some of the most fascinating issues in the field of HHT. Last but not least, I think it is the opportunity to talk with these patients, hear their stories and experiences and be able to reciprocate with advice and lots of support.

Question 4: What difficulties does a woman engaged in scientific activity face?
Being underestimated. There is still, despite enormous progress, a male-dominated cultural legacy in the scientific world. It may happen that a patient does not recognize the authority of the white coat worn by a woman for example. The managers of hospitals and research centers are still mostly men. There is also the theme of work-family balance. Too many women give up their careers or sacrifice it after having children. It is a family welfare issue, which in Italy must be strengthened to meet the needs of working mothers.

Question 5: What message would you like to give to girls interested in becoming scientists?
The message I can send is not to give up and to have clear goals in mind. It takes willpower to get to the bottom of a race, in some ways, still obstacles for too many women.

The Italian HHT Foundation “Onilde Carini” takes the opportunity of this interview to warmly thank Dr. Cavalcoli for her attention to the problems of HHT patients, for her collaboration with the HHT Center of Reference for research and with our Association for patient outreach work.

January 28, 2021

Dr. Andrea Giacomelli
President of
the Italian Foundation HHT “Onilde Carini”