Featured How to live like the experts

How to live like the experts: applying science and education in everyday life with Lisa Di Prospero

Written by Monica Matys

Ever wonder if your doctor or specialist follows their own advice? Sunnybrook experts get candid with the approaches they take in their personal lives.

Lisa Di Prospero is Director, Practice-Based Research and Innovation, Director of the Education Research Unit and Vice Chair of the Research Ethics Board at Sunnybrook.

You research professional learning. I’m curious: were you always a good student?

Yes! My mom is 93, and to this day she still talks about going in for my parent-teacher interviews. She says she was always told, “I’m happy you came in but there are no problems.” I’m so controlling and type A.

Where does that come from?

My father is now passed, but he was a labourer in construction. He always did things meticulously so I likely got it from him. My older sister is very type A as well, but my other sister flies by the seat of her pants. We call her the “fun” sister.

Does that mean you’re not fun?

I think I’m fun, but I definitely plan more. Being analytical attracted me to a career in science, but I also research everything in my life before making a decision. Before I buy something, I’ll make a spreadsheet on it. I’ll read all the reviews, look into the maintenance of the item and compare costs. I won’t make a spontaneous decision.

So you have lists for everything?

For sure, I keep hard copy lists for everything in my life, personal and professional. Research has actually shown that ticking things off lists increases the release of dopamine in our bodies, making us feel good! Lists also help me make better decisions with my money.

Going back to your career in science — did you have a teacher who impacted you?

I did. I went to an all-girls Catholic school and I had a very young science teacher who was a huge role model for me. She was a strong believer in girls pursuing science. Funny enough, my husband – who is also a teacher – ended up having her daughter in one of his classes. As well, my son’s guidance counsellor was also a friend of hers. Through these chance connections, we ended up having dinner a few years ago. I was able to tell her how much she meant to me. Her influence made me think about how I can make a positive impact. It’s so important to help others advance.

We all fall into ruts. How do you keep engaged in learning new things?

It’s about being open to participating in difference projects that spark excitement, creativity and new ways of thinking. We can get stagnant. For me, it’s important to be on teams I like working with, especially in health care where things can get heavy sometimes.

How have you learned to deal with that heaviness?

Personally, I do have guilty pleasures. I watch very “bad” reality TV shows, everything from hoarding to dating shows. I could watch cooking shows all day long.

I also remind myself to stay positive. One of my favourite quotes comes from the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy and resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.”

Any advice for the rest of us on never stopping the learning process?

It’s all about finding your spark. The pandemic in a way has made it easier for me, reminding me that life goes by really quickly. When I’m feeling too structured these days, I tell myself to find a balance. That doesn’t mean I’ll be going skydiving or anything, but I’ll try to do something outside my routine.

About the author

Monica Matys

Monica Matys is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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