About us

We are an interdisciplinary team with wide-ranging methodological expertise in qualitative and quantitative social scientific health research. We encourage participatory, transdisciplinary research, development and teaching in the Department of Health Professions, generating impetus for the advancement of healthcare provision.


The team is headed by two researchers with an excellent track record: Dr Heidi Kaspar and PhD candidate Karin van Holten.


Dr Heidi Kaspar, co-head

Heidi Kaspar has a doctorate in social and health geography. For the past 15 years, her teaching and research has centred around participation and care work/care relations. Focal points of her research include: assisted living in old age – through caring communities and/or technologies, transnational health markets and participatory methodologies. Following her dissertation in the field of urban research, which focused on processes of social inclusivity and exclusion in the design, management and use of public spaces, Heidi Kaspar went on to research the care arrangements generated by medical tourism in an SNSF post-doc project and two Indo-Swiss research collaborations with field research in the US, India and Uzbekistan. She and Professor Claudia Müller (University of Siegen) are currently co-heading the NFP74 project ‘Caring Community Living Labs’, a participatory research project being carried out in five locations in German-speaking Switzerland to investigate the extent to which caring communities are a suitable model for improving long-term care at home. Heidi Kaspar is fascinated by participatory approaches because they challenge conventional hierarchies and roles in research projects.

Karin van Holten, co-head

Karin van Holten is a social anthropologist. She has spent over ten years investigating care work and long-term care provision in home and intermediary environments. Key focus areas of her research activities include: relatives as carers, distance care-giving, transnational family structures, self-determination, living with chronic illness, care migration and live-in care. As part of her dissertation at the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Bern, she is examining ‘Transnationalisation in long-term care provision’. At present, she is working with care migrants and diverse practice organisations to develop a model for high-quality care at home, coupled with fair working conditions for live-in carers (in collaboration with public health services). Another pillar of her professional activities involves communicating her passion for qualitative and participatory research methodologies at bachelor’s and master’s level and in various continuing education programmes. Participatory methodologies promote the ongoing advancement of knowledge. Karin believes that investigating the perspectives and experiences of others holds potential for truly new insight.

Shkumbin Gashi, research associate/PhD student

Shkumbin Gashi completed his master’s in clinical psychology in 2017 with a master's thesis entitled ‘Perceptions of bullying, its nature and consequences’.
Before moving to Switzerland four years ago, he worked for various NGOs and institutions, where he actively lobbied for social issues and made an essential contribution to the exploration of ‘Bullying in schools’ in Kosovo, an issue that had not been investigated in that country prior to that time. As a PhD student working on the SNSF project ‘Innovative Home Care Models for People with Comprehensive Care Needs: Caring Community Living Labs’, Shkumbin is writing his doctorate at the University of Bern. His dissertation is based on a mixed-method design, which he is employing to research psychosocial factors that affect life in the community for older adults.
Shkumbin has a great deal of experience in quantitative research and has also placed a specific focus on grounded theory as a methodology. His academic interests lie in the fields of behaviour profiling, personality development and health in every age category. His research philosophy centres around investigating approaches that serve the interests of individuals, have a possibility of being implemented and bring about positive change.

Anita Schürch, research associate

Anita Schürch has a master’s in sociology and cultural anthropology from the University of Zurich (2018) as well as an MAS in gerontology from Bern University of Applied Sciences (2007). She gained her first research experience in the field of healthcare at the Careum School of Health. Before that, she worked in various roles in locally based care for the elderly, in facility management at two hospitals and for a university publications office. Her special research interest lies in alternative care models that incorporate civil society, as is the case in caring communities, for example, or neighbourhood assistance with a time bank scheme. She also focuses on self-organisation and support for autonomy in the context of existing care and organisational models. She sees the increased and routine involvement of the affected parties as a central starting point for the development of sustainable and futureproof living and support models. Her special focus is on the elderly population.

Julius Obinna Ugwu, research associate

Julius Obinna Ugwu is a Medical Doctor and Researcher interested in Clinical Practice and Public Health as well as Contemporary health issues from interdisciplinary and international perspectives. He is currently working on Community-based participatory health research methods and their application in care communities in Switzerland and international health agencies. He is interested in cost-effective and affordable public health interventions for prevention and control.