Grant writing is definitely a learned skill. Knowing how to sell and market your idea is really crucial to making something successful. 

Dr. Lana Castellucci

Division of hematology

Yoga, fishing, playing hide and seek – all things Dr. Lana Castellucci is not particularly good at. But not because she can’t bend or cast a line or is averse to tight spaces, she simply can’t keep quiet under any circumstances! She’s Italian and by nature a permanent contender for the how-loud-can-we-talk title. And that should tell you everything you need to know.

Being Italian, in particular the daughter of immigrant parents, has served her well. Through their struggles she’s witnessed the pay-off of perseverance, a valuable trait when you’re a medical researcher. Despite a few starts and stops Lana has an impressive track record. In just a few years on staff she has already established herself among the heavy hitters in thrombosis research. She gives some of the credit to the mother ship – built on the backs of our world-renowned experts such as Drs Wells and Rodger – the rest… is pure tenacity.

Here, Dr. Lana Castellucci shares some thoughts on life including her love of shopping, hate of spiders and how to celebrate a funded grant.

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The greatest remedy on Earth today is red wine. I put that sh– in everything.

In the beginning of any career, advice from other’s can be overwhelming.

Money to me means being charitable – being kind and giving to those less fortunate.

A really big test of how kind a human being is, is how he or she speaks to you on the telephone.

If I could change one thing about my family, it would be how far away they live. Windsor is a long drive from Ottawa.

Windsor is a big automotive town. I worked the assembly lines at Chrysler Friday and Saturday nights during my undergrad. It was hard work, very physical but the most mind-numbing thing ever. There was no way I was going to do that for the rest of my life.

There were a bunch of us in undergrad who were all interested in medicine and 80-90% of us became doctors. I guess there was a spark in all of us that gave us a common connection.

Back during SARS there was a huge increase in ICU fellowship positions to help manage the patients. Afterward, those new intensivists, myself being one of them were all trying to find a niche to combine with Critical Care to make us more marketable in the real world. I liked thrombosis so came back to Ottawa to do that.

My greatest professional achievement is working with an amazing group to develop a research program. The group is obviously quite exceptional. You’re in Mecca here. But it’s also a challenge because you’re faced with a sort of competition if you will. You need to aspire to great things, and at first, that was hard. That’s where the perseverance comes through; you just keep applying for grants and when you get rejected you keep working at it and ask for help. My research is focused on the safety of anticoagulation and trying to figure out which blood thinners are the safest for treatment of venous thrombosis.

Grant writing is definitely a learned skill. Knowing how to sell and market your idea is really crucial to making something successful. That comes with trial and error and from getting the feedback of your reviewers to make your next application better.

When I wake up in the morning, I hit snooze. This morning I was running late – like every other morning. I will set my alarm earlier than necessary, so I have time to hit snooze, a lot! It doesn’t help, I’m still late.

My idea of misery is no shopping. I’m definitely a shopaholic. At home I like stores like Kate Spade and Nordstrom but when I travel in Europe, I can’t pass by a pharmacy without going in. You can get so many things over the counter in Europe that you can’t get here – I mean anything. It just fascinates me. It drives my friends crazy, they say, ‘Oh my god, not another pharmacy!’

I just got back from Italy. It was grape harvest time, so I got to participate in that. I did it for about three hours and you know, the novelty of that really wears off. I was like, ‘okay, now I need a glass of wine – I’m done’.

The thing that would make me go insane the fastest is moving into a hoarder’s house! My mom kept absolutely everything. When we moved them from their house into a two-bedroom condo, it was a disaster, nothing would fit. So, the next day I sent it all to Goodwill. My mom still asks me where things are with an accusing look of ‘I know you gave it away and you didn’t even ask me if it was okay’.

If you learn anything with age, it’s that other people’s opinions matter less.

As you get older, you get more confident.

The best advice I was ever given was, ‘make sure it is what you want to do, not what is expected of you’.

Growing up, ‘failure’ was not a word I knew. There is always something to be learned from the process or journey, despite not achieving the outcome you thought you wanted.

Unfortunately, one of my big funded projects was stopped early because we had poor patient recruitment. It’s one of those inevitable things about research; as important as the question is, if you can’t get patients to participate, sometimes the questions go unanswered. It’s very dissatisfying.

The thing I’d find most difficult about being in prison would be solitary confinement. While I do like my own space, I’m somewhat of an extrovert and have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I don’t do things like yoga because I can’t keep quiet under any circumstances. I mean, I could, I can, but for a solid hour it’s really hard. I’m Italian, I like to talk and give my 2 cents. I like interacting and communicating with people.

My stress reducing trick is dark chocolate.

The phrase I most overuse is “do you have any chocolate”?

The room in my home that I spend the most time in is my closet. It was part of the reason I bought my house. I love my walk-in closet, it’s just huge and the woman I bought it from had done absolutely everything that I would have done.

I don’t like it when people say, “Not my responsibility”.

I’m least tolerant of laziness in others and I try to gently call people out on this. I’ve learned over the years that you can’t necessarily be as blunt as often as I have been.

To compete in life, you’ve got to make no excuses. My parents are a big inspiration. They both immigrated to Canada with nothing. That’s where my perseverance comes from. You see adversity and you just overcome it. If I’ve learned any truths in life, it’s this: maintain perspective; the big picture matters most.

I think you do your best when you’re invested.

CIHR is very competitive, receiving a grant from them for $1.23 million to investigate blood thinners was a prime example of my perseverance.

My COBRRA grant application was not funded the first few times and when it was – it felt awesome! I definitely celebrated that one with friends and champagne!

The best way to get things moving is do them myself. Even if I have help, I’m still overseeing things, I have a hard time letting go. I’m a classic A type personality that way.

The childhood fear I still have as an adult is spiders. I hate them. And if they’re in my house, they’re dying.

The most imaginative thing I’ve done as an adult is trying to keep my opinions to myself; this is really hard for me! It’s almost reflex; it just comes out of my mouth. I try to find imaginative ways to distract myself so that I don’t comment on everything.

What I got from my father was a sense of humour. As my Mom would say, “you’re just like your Dad”.

To this day, I can’t stop laughing. My brother used to say I would laugh at the grass growing because I’d just giggle at everything.

Sometimes when you’re trying too hard you miss the fun of the experience.

Everything tastes better when my mom makes it.

The best thing I’ve ever gotten for free is friendship.

My favourite app is Insta; so much fun to see what others are doing!

The silliest thing I own is Fred, he’s a cross eyed wooden bird that sits in my home office. Funky Fred is the perfect colourful conversation starter.

I was raised to be independent. That’s a big departure from what’s expected of the youngest daughter in an Italian family. I think my Dad was probably a big contributor to that. I had a really good relationship with him growing up. Education was important to me and he really encouraged and fostered that.

My unknown talent is decorating houses. I just sort of have an eye for things. My friends come over and say, ‘why does your house look so good?’ It’s because I want it to be a great, comfortable space to spend time in. When my friends come over with their kids, they’re not allowed to touch anything. Some of them have moved or redecorated and asked my opinion on things or had me go shopping with them. I guess I’m the consultant.

Dr. Steve Kravcik had a significant influence on my career. I worked with him as a medical student; he was inspiring and smart and full of useless facts!

The most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to do was deliver a baby – it was amazing, but gross!

I always wanted a nanny for myself. All of my friends have nannies for their kids, and I need somebody just like that. Besides cleaning I’d have her to do the groceries. I love cooking but I hate grocery shopping.

The one non-monetary thing I have the highest hope of obtaining in life is learning to always appreciate what I have.

If I could only pack 3 things in my suitcases to travel to an unknown destination they would be: well actually I’d pack 3 suitcases, not 3 things!

A book that has had a lasting impression on me is To Kill a Mockingbird. It has a great message about social injustice, prejudice, and striving to be better.

Can’t Stop the Feeling by JT is a song that is guaranteed to start my day off right.

The 1990s fashion trend that I miss the most is fluorescent pink.

Best quote of all time: “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” ~Oprah Winfrey