University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Community gets an eye-opening lesson in human microbiome and our western lifestyle

A packed Libin Theatre listens in to a dynamic introduction into their human health

Jager and Kokemor 

Last year, the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases undertook a series of innovative lectures to pair the community with our leading research and clinical experts. Dubbed the Mini-Medical School Series, it will be continued monthly throughout 2017. 

The Snyder Institute’s Mini-Medical School offers a dynamic introduction to the world of human health, as well as the changes taking place in medical research at the institute, the Cumming School of Medicine, and across the entire health-care field. So far this year, the series has explored precision medicine, immunodeficiency disorders, allergies, concussions, and the microbiome; it will continue with timely and informative lectures on vaccines, women’s health, and biologics.

Each lecture combines basic science with real-life clinical situations, to give Calgarians a better understanding of the effects certain diseases have on the body. Lectures are also designed to explore the social and ethical implications related to that specific area of health.

Sharing research findings with the community

“With medicine advancing at such a rapid rate, many people are increasingly concerned with maintaining good health and receiving the best treatment possible,” says Paul Kubes, PhD, director of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases and professor in the Cumming School  of Medicine's Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. “We looked at our Mini-Medical School program as a way for us to truly connect with our community, giving us a unique opportunity to show them the research we are doing and tell them why we are doing it.”

This past Monday, Kathy McCoy, PhD, and Marie-Claire Arrieta, PhD, two of the Cumming School of Medicine’s newest recruits, provided a dynamic introduction into kids and their microbiome, outlining how exposure to microbes is actually beneficial to children’s well-being. Attendees learned about maternal microbiota during pregnancy, the microbiome during early life, and microbiota changes that are associated with living a western lifestyle. Arrieta was also on site signing and selling copies of her book Let them Eat Dirt, which was recently featured on Good Morning America and in the Wall Street Journal.

How trillions of microbes influence our lives

Based on the best scientific literature published to date, this engaging and important book explains how the trillions of microbes that live in our bodies influence childhood development; why an imbalance in those microbes can lead to obesity, diabetes, asthma, and other chronic conditions; and how — from conception onward — parents can take steps to positively impact their child’s long-term health.

“With the development of the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre underway, we wanted to take some time to ensure our community understands the importance of studying this new organ,” says Kubes. “The feedback we’ve received has been extremely positive and we look forward to continuing this lifelong partnership with our community.” 

The Snyder Institute’s Mini-Medical School will continue the first Monday of every month until June, and will pick up again in the fall with new topics and world-renowned speakers. Learn more, and listen to podcasts from past lectures here. Copies of Dr. Arrieta’s book, Let them Eat Dirt, are on sale now in the Cumming School of Medicine bookstore.



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.