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Snyder Institute Member Wins International Award

By Todd O’Keefe

March has been a rewarding month for director of the University of Calgary’s Leader in Medicine program and Snyder Institute member, Dr. Paul Beck, MD, PhD. He recently received the Faculty of Medicine’s Watanabe Award for Overall Excellence and is also the recipient of the 2012 American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute Council Immunology, Microbiology & IBD Section Research Mentor Award. These awards follow Dr. Beck being awarded the 2010 Outstanding Physician of the Year at the Foothills Hospital.

The AGA award was based on contributions for promoting research by mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, being the director of the Leaders in Medicine Program, and past commitments as director of the Internal Medicine research program and the Gastroenterology Fellows research Program. The biggest impact on the review committee for the international AGA award was the fact that Beck was nominated by his students for teaching and research excellence.

“The biggest reward for me is working with students in the medical school, in the hospital and in the labs to help them fulfill their goals and dreams,” says Beck, who is also a team member of the Alberta Health Innovate Solutions IBD Consortium. “A great example of this is a past student, Dr. Humberto Jijon, who completed a PhD here. He followed this with medical school and residency in gastroenterology where he worked closely with the IBD Consortium and Faculty Department Head for the Department of Medicine, Dr Subrata Ghosh, MD, PhD, who is also a Snyder Institute member.

“Jijon is an incredible individual and we have helped him to land a prestigious post-doctoral training block with Dr. Ramnik Xavier at Harvard which will start in the fall. I consider it ideal to help develop great individuals and get them the best training possible to give them the best chance at excelling in their field.”

As a clinician-scientist, Beck stresses the importance of having both a clinical and basic science background to better allow research to be tied more closely to clinical problems and patient diseases. He states that things change quickly in research and medicine. Often it takes someone with knowledge and experience clinically and in research to interpret complex patient scenarios, to develop new ideas from specific clinical observations, and ideally develop new treatment and diagnostic approaches.  

“I think that by being a clinician-scientist you can facilitate cutting-edge knowledge translation,” he explains and adds, “The fun part about it is using your research knowledge and background in disease pathogenesis to treat patients.”

Beck is one of the University of Calgary’s shining examples in helping meet our Eyes High goal of being one of the top five research universities in Canada by 2016. 

The Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases was named in 2008 in honour of Joan Snyder and her parents, who she credits for teaching her the value of philanthropy. It is a group of more than 104 clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic scientists who are impacting and changing the lives of people suffering from chronic diseases, including sepsis, MRSA, cystic fibrosis, type-1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For more information on the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, please visit us at or follow us on Twitter @SnyderInstitute.