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UCalgary’s Mini Med School

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UCalgary's newsletter UToday tells us: "You won't leave with a degree but the University of Calgary's Mini Med School offers the community a dynamic introduction to the world of chronic disease and the changes taking place in medical research and health care today."

That was back in 2016 when the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases created a new community engagement program called Mini Med School. This isn't the first Mini Med School offered by the University of Calgary. Back in 2008 if you wished to attend, you were looking at $35 per session or $250 for the full course. As of 2016 it’s free.

Podcasts of previous Mini Med School lectures are available through the website of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases. There are also mini-biographies of the speakers.

I attended a recent Mini Med School on the topic of “the sweet truth about gut microbiota and diabetes” by Dr. Kathy McCoy and Dr. Raylene Reimer. When I looked down from the top of the stairs at the entry to the Libin Lecture Theatre the room seemed infinite in size, but with a capacity of 320, it filled up very quickly. Pre-registration is requested.

I've heard Dr. McCoy speak several times before and I blogged about the new International Microbiome Centre last December. Tonight’s lecture was more focused on the health aspects of the microbiome. Her take-home lesson on microbiota was consistent with the previous times I've heard her speak. In short, there is an increase in immune-mediated diseases, such as allergies and autoimmunity diseases, and the evidence points towards our increased urbanization, hygiene, and use of antibiotics.

Dr. Reimer strongly encouraged us to think about the fiber in our diet and she elaborated on the concepts of probiotics and prebiotics in current research. She spoke of the problems of obesity and the difficulties for an individual to lose weight since there are long term changes to our bodies, especially in our microbiota. She also mentioned issues because of the changes to the brain’s reward mechanisms in terms of the food we eat. She indicated that she is somewhat encouraged by recent developments with oligofructose and other natural prebiotics.

As I eat my breakfast of probiotic yogurt I think about ways of improving my healthy diet by adding onions, garlic, artichokes and other foods rich in prebiotics to my other meals.

I'm very pleased with the variety of community engagement and outreach programs available to those of us who live near the University of Calgary. I find that when I go to these events, not only do I learn new things, I also catch up with fellow alumni. It is like being a student again - except there are no exams or tuition.

If you don't live near the University of Calgary, check your local University for outreach programs. If you are unable to attend such events, listen to the Mini Med School podcasts or find interesting free MOOCs available online through such organizations as FutureLearn.

Genome Alberta’s calendar of events posts upcoming Mini Med School topics.

Links of interest:
    Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases Community Engagement
    Genome Alberta calendar of events
    International Microbiome Centre and the Scientific Method
    FutureLearn
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UCalgary’s Mini Med School

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