All About Med 1: The Block Is Hot

Block Exams Are Coming

I’m 4 weeks into term 1 and I’m about to start study week.  We get 4 weeks of lectures, 1 week to study uninterrupted, and then a block exam.  The block exam is a combined test that covers all the materials from the beginning.  Last week, we had a 35 question formative exam kinda like a “sneak peak” of what our actual block exam will look like.  The formative counts for 2% of our grade and benchmarked where we stood with the material.  I’m glad they gave it to us because it showed me my strengths and weaknesses.  

The first block is a general review of undergraduate material.  There are a few new things, but nothing from left field.  My biggest challenge thus far has been allowing break myself to take a break.  My friend told me that having a glass of wine at night with my notes before bed doesn’t count as personal time.  

Breaks are important


I use a daily calendar to track my daily activities and my iOS calendar to track my time.  Since this week is study week, I’m about to go “hard in the paint.”  Meaning, this next week is no joke.  Since I understand the benefits of time off, I made sure to schedule some down time.  

I spent the weekend preparing for the week. My meal prep included pot roast, taco salad, ginger chicken, spaghetti and meatballs.  I made the roast and the ginger chicken in the crock pot.  Both are really easy to do.  I’ll post directions when I get more time.  I froze half of the meals so they would last unit the end of the week and beyond.  

Your girl won’t be hungry this week.  On top of meal prepping I went grocery shopping, filled up my gas tank, checked my tires, did my laundry, cleaned my house, changed my sheets, washed my hair, and shaved.  I don’t need any distractions this week.  The plan is to pray, eat, workout, study, and repeat.  Check it out below. 


The Block Is Hot

Okay, so I know this schedule looks insane.  But, “The Block Is Hot”.  Which is a Lil Wayne’s reference from his hit jam in 1999.  Every time I sit down to study I start singing that song.  LiL Wayne is referencing police on the corner preventing him from participating in discretionary activities.  I’m referencing my professors literally saying it’s my job to “F” you on this exam.  YES!  One of my professors actually said that.  So the block extra hot!

The good news is, I feel comfortable with all of the material.  I need to work on memorizing the small details and cross-referencing topics.  Hopefully things will go in my favor over the upcoming week.  

Weekly Wins

I’m still sticking to my personal goals.  Things haven’t been prefect but I haven’t completely fallen off either.  

  1.  I’m only a few days behind on my daily devotional.
  2. I still work out.  Although the past few weeks has been intermittent (1-3 times per week).  The goal is at least 4.  This week.  I want to workout everyday.  It will help me sleep and it clears my mind.  I need every advantage during study week.  
  3. My diet isn’t terrible.  I’m cooking more than I have been and that’s always better.  
  4. My sleep has been so so.  I need to be more strict with forcing myself to sleep before midnight.  
  5. Blogging fell off.  I trying though.   

If I haven’t completely failed I consider it a win, even if it’s small.  

Check out my article on eating real food and find me on pinterest.

Striving to make practical changes for healthier lifestyle.  

Tiffany Rebekah

Charter Foundation Program

Charter Foundation Program

I was admitted into the Charter Foundation Program (aka Foundation to Medicine – FTM) at St. George’s University.  The program is designed to prepare students for the rigorous curriculum ahead of them once in the school of medicine.  The program is similar to the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP).  It’s a tough program but upon completion, you will have a definite edge going into term 1.  

Check out this cool video I found of my school on youtube.

Charter Foundation Program
Photo courtesy of

The Charter Foundation Program aka FTM 

The curriculum is comprised of 6 courses (17 credit hours).  Successful completion of the program requires a 3.5 GPA (no grade less than a C) and passing their PMSCE (75%).  This is a tough standard, but statistically students that pass have an 80% chance of scoring greater than 220 on the USMLE step 1.  Goal…. score high for a your residency.   

FTM Courses (Spring 2016)

Anatomy (4 credits with lab) –   The anatomical sciences include human gross anatomy, developmental anatomy, histology and cell biology. The course begins with an introduction to anatomical terminology and imaging, cellular organization and the basic tissues. The course continues with an extensive study of the eleven major systems of the human body: Integumentary System, Skeletal System, Muscular System, Cardiovascular System, Lymphatic System, Respiratory System, Digestive System, Urinary System, Male & Female Reproductive Systems, Nervous System and Endocrine System. The course is composed of lecture, laboratory, small group and online activities.  

Grades are calculated out of 330 points.  There’s a midterm and final each worth 100 points, and 2 quizzes each worth 40 points.  The other 50 points come from online assignments, online quizzes, small groups and labs.  This class gives you many opportunities to improve your grade if you mess up on a quiz or exam.  

My evaluation:  There is a ton of information and concepts build quickly.  The quizzes and exams are mostly 1st order questions.  Some questions come directly from the online assignments, online quizzes, lab, and small groups called buzz.  The class is supported by supplemental learning groups (SL).  The SL facilitator provides questions from the lectures to test your knowledge.  Use their packets!  The class average for each exam normally hovers around 80%.  I felt this course was very doable.  It’s not an easy course and you must study everyday because there is a lot of information to digest quickly.  

Physiology (3 credits) – Gives an introduction to physiology.  Topics covered include excitable tissue, resting and action potentials, muscle contractions, autonomic nervous system, functional neuroanatomy, somatic senses, auditory and vestibular system, complex brain function, cardiovascular physiology, respiratory physiology, endocrinology, gastrointestinal physiology, renal physiology, and acid base.  

Grades are out of 130 points.  There are 3 quizzes (10 points each), a midterm (50 points), and the final (50 points).  Exams are not cumulative.  

My evaluation:  I found this course the most difficult of them all.  Learning physiology requires causal reasoning and conceptual integration.  You CAN NOT memorize your way through physiology.  It’s a difficult subject to teach and many students blamed our teachers.  YOU MUST BE A SELF LEARNER!!  You must test yourself frequently.  If you’ve never taken physiology, YOU MUST READ THE BOOK!!!  Exam questions come from several different professors each with their own style. The test are hard.  Invest in Physiology BRS and get the book for the course.  Do as many practice question you can get your hands on.  Study in groups.  This course is supported by SL and their practice questions are very helpful.  The midterm average for our class was around 68%.  Don’t let this scare you, people that hung in there drastically improved their scores on the final.  

Biochemistry (3 credits) –  The objective is to cover the structure and function of biological molecules, the biochemical pathways of intermediary metabolism, the functional significance of biochemical processes as well as their regulation in normal and aberrant states.  Identify the structures and cellular roles of the major macromolecules.  List and explain the major metabolic  pathways (synthesis and degradation) of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids.  Integrate the biochemical information  covered by this course into meaningful knowledge with an emphasis on the functional significance and regulatory mechanisms governing metabolic pathways. 

Grades are based on 4 exams.  Exam 1 & 3 are worth 20% each.  The midterm and the final are worth 30% each.  Exams are not cumulative, however concepts build upon each other.   

My evaluation:  Most people love the director of this course.  We call him Dr. G and he really knows his stuff.  He’s also very funny and will keep you engaged during lecture.  Pay attention to what he says.  I repeat, pay attention to what he says.  Pay attention to every diagram.  He will test you on the same concept over and over again to make sure you understand it.  The exams were tricky.  Hint*** When learning the different pathways focus on regulation and enzymes.  You will need to know the steps, but he won’t ask what’s the 3rd step in glycolysis.  HE WILL ASK HOW IS IT REGULATED.  Just know all the regulation and enzymes.  The class average normally hovers around a B to B+.  The midterm average dropped ~10 points because people didn’t learn regulation and didn’t pay attention to the diagrams.  

Molecular Biology (3 credits) – The course is divided into 3 sections.  

Section 1: Central Dogma of Molecular Biology includes:  DNA Structure and Topology, DNA Replication, Transcription, RNA Processing, and Translation.

Section 2: Gene Regulation includes:  Regulation of Gene Expression in Prokaryotes, Regulation of Gene Expression in Eukaryotes, Translational Regulation, and Antisense, siRNA and MicroRNA

Section 3: Recombinant DNA Technology includes:  Restriction Endonucleases, DNA Cloning and Manipulation, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), DNA Markers,  DNA Forensics,  Genomics and Proteomics, Transgenics and Genetically Modified Organisms, Gene Therapy, and Molecular Cell Biology

Grades:  1% ExamSoft Practice (freebie), Quiz 20% Two Quizzes (highest quiz counts twice), 30% Midterm examination, 40% Final examination, 9% Two Online Practice Exams (more freebies). 

My evaluation:  The exams in this class are very straight forward.  There isn’t a book and everything comes directly from the lecture slides.  Pay attention to anything that’s starred, bolded, or highlighted.  Thirty percent of the course should be an easy A because of the dropped quiz and the online quizzes (which you’re allowed to take over and over again until you get 100%).  The SL sessions were on point too.  If Ms. Penny is still teaching them, go to them.  She’s taken the course before and gives awesome practice questions.  If you can answer her questions you will get an A in the course.  

Abnormal Psychology (3 credits) – This course reviews the major psychiatric disorders as defined in the DSMĀ­5. The salient diagnostic features of the mental disorders are highlighted.  Major theories of the etiology of mental illness are reviewed, and neurobiological correlates of abnormal behavior are emphasized when possible. Both psychotherapeutic and biological treatment options and outcomes measures for mental illness are covered. Clinical cases and clinical videos illustrating psychotherapy are utilized to enhance learning.  

Each exam is worth 25% of your grade.  Exams are not cumulative but diagnoses may show up after exam 2.

My evaluation:  Arguably the most favoured professor in the program.  Dr. Kirby is very engaging and her class is extremely enjoyable.  Her exams are tricky but she gives practice questions to test your knowledge.  If you can answer her practice questions you’ll do well on her exams.  Class averages are normally in the B+ range.  

Learning Strategies (1 credit) –  Objectives copied from spring 2016 syllabus.

1. Design a personalized and effective time management schedule

2. Apply individualized time and task principles to course content

3. Organize and modify study approaches in order to study efficiently and to enhance long-term memory

4. Assess different memorization strategies and apply appropriately to course content

5. Assess different reading and note-taking strategies and apply appropriately to course content

6. Assess different note-making strategies and apply appropriately to course content

7. Create effective study groups

8. Assess different test-taking skills for multiple choice questions (MCQ) and apply appropriately to course content

9. Assess different test-taking errors and apply corrections appropriately to specific test situations

10. Recognize own academic attitudes and mental habits and know what adjustments are needed

11. Observe how stress, fear and anxiety impact the learning process and apply effective strategies to minimize that impact

12. Synthesize active learning strategies and higher order reasoning skills to develop effective learning tools for problematic course content

Grades are based on a series of in class and home assignments.  It’s an easy A, don’t stress about this class.  

My evaluation:  This class is a “find yourself” type of course.  It’s designed to help students evaluate their study strategies and correct any gaps in your study habits.  You will be introduced to different study techniques.  Some will work and others won’t.  The cool thing is, it helps you to become a better student and test taker.  Everyone gets an A in this course.   

Charter Foundations Program
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The Good

Only a selected few get an opportunity to participate in the Charter Foundation Program.  People are mainly picked based on their academic back ground.  Students present with lower MCAT scores, lower GPAs, or have been out of school for a while.  Some students may have not had biochemistry or anatomy.  Either way, students chosen for this program have been identified to benefit from the Charter Foundation Program.  

If you are chosen for this program, feel lucky.  This is an opportunity to prove to yourself and the academic committee that you have what it takes to make it through medical school.  There’s nothing worse than getting accepted into medical school and then failing out with $100,000+ in student loans.  Here, you will build a solid foundation to expand upon for your medical career.

The Charter Foundation Program is 100% refundable.  Yes!  If you’re unsuccessful, you get your tuition money back (~$12,000).  Living expenses are nonrefundable.  Still, not a bad deal.  Click here for detailed cost.

There are many resources to help you succeed.  The supplemental learning sessions (SL groups) are small groups that meet once a week to reinforce concepts discussed in class.  For more challenging courses the department of education services (DES) provide additional study sessions.  DES sessions are normally facilitated by previous students that excelled in the course.  My DES facilitator was awesome.  Shout out to Ruby!  The SL sessions are also great because they provide you with addition practice questions, which you need.  

In my term, the school introduced small groups for anatomy, biochemistry, and physiology.  These groups were designed to test your conceptual knowledge on a deeper level.  It helped reinforce the bigger picture and integrate concepts we learned in class.  Many people struggled with biochemistry and physiology so the school wanted to make sure we thoroughly understood these concepts.  

Learning strategies is a class that helps you with life at SGU.  If you are struggling with things such as test taking skills, time management, or study techniques make an appointment and someone will sit down with you and help plan a schedule.  

As you can see, the school invests a lot of time and money into making sure the students have support in the program.  If you put in the effort, they will help you succeed.  

Charter Foundation Program
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The Bad

This program is balls to the walls hard!  Why? Because it’s med school boot camp comprised of  17 credit hours.  Each course is demanding on it’s own and combined together makes for a very challenging semester.  Time is the enemy.  Many of us had mental break downs and many quit.  However, a good number of us sucked it up and pushed through.  The school tells you the pass rate is approximately 80%.  My estimated pass rate for our class is approximately 35%.  

This is how I calculated our class pass rate.  Our class began with roughly 70 people and ended with roughly 50 people.  Of those 50 people, roughly half achieved the 3.5 GPA.  Keep in mind, this is a rough estimate, but anyone in my class and previous FTM terms will validate that the FTM pass rate is not 80%.  That may be the pass rate for the PMSCE (cumulative test at the end of the semester that test your basic understanding of your semester courses).  That’s just my best guess.  No one knows the real pass rate.  It’s a secret.  

Another reason it’s so hard is because the 3.5 GPA requirement is stressful.  All B’s ain’t gonna cut it, neither will all B’s and 1 A.  Anything lower means appeals range (3.2 – 3.49).  Not everyone is accepted in the appeals range, and you better have a good reason if you find yourself in this position.  Rumor has it, they want to see improvement and an upward trend in your grades if you fall within this range.  You also need to explain why you didn’t make the 3.5 GPA and what you have learned to become a better student.  

If you realize you will not make the 3.5 GPA you have the opportunity to withdraw and the school will refund your money.  The school also gives you a chance to repeat the FTM program, however you have to go through an appeals process before the school accepts you back.  

Charter Foundation Program

Advice from prior students

**Remember, this is my perspective.  Take what you will, but develop and use what works for you.  

  1. Don’t get behind
  2. Develop a healthy sleeping pattern before you get to Grenada. 
  3. Work on getting in shape before you get to Grenada
  4. Workout regularly once you’re here, and keep up with your workouts even when you don’t want to (trust me, it makes a big difference) 
  5. Learn to cook simple meals
  6. Eat healthy
  7. Make a schedule and stick to it (I’ll post a sample week of my schedule)
  8. Don’t attempt to go to every SL or DES session (pick what works for you quickly, if you can’t learn in groups, don’t go and waste time)
  9. Preview and post view your notes every lecture
  10. Don’t go to Bananas (this will make sense once you’re here)
  11. Take a break at least once a week
  12. Don’t put a class off, study every class often.  
  13. Stay away from negative people
  14. Be selfish with your time, it’s very precious.  
  15. Ask for help sooner than later
  16. Schedule time for your loved ones at least once a week and stick to it!

Charter Foundation Program Sample Schedule

Blue = Class/SL or DES sessions

Green = Self Study

Pink/White = Personal/Free time (email, call home, do nothing)

**I adjusted this week to week based on what was ahead of me and classes that I needed to focus more on.  I added every SL session to remind me when the were, but I only attended the sessions that benefited me.  

charter foundation program

In conclusion, this program is designed to test your mental and emotional endurance.  You have to figure out your strategy quickly.  There is no time for slacking off here.  You have to keep reminding yourself that you’re smart and that’s why you’re here.  This was an emotional roller coaster ride full of many twists and turns.  Even though this was the hardest program I’ve ever done in my life, looking back, I’m glad I was given the opportunity.  

If anyone is thinking about this program or have any questions, leave a comment or email at with the heading Charter Foundation Program.  I’m happy to share my resources with you.  

Find me on pinterest and check out my article on eating real food.

Make practical changes for a healthier lifestyle.

Tiffany Rebekah