By: Stevikha Foster (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at UWI Mona Campus in Jamaica. Currently in her 4th year of study
The transition from CAPE to this course is quite daunting but doable. Make sure you know the information you learnt during CAPE well before the course begins.
The journey began in August 2019, after receiving an acceptance letter from the University of the West Indies, Mona campus and a scholarship from the Government of Montserrat. I was very excited.
I got to Jamaica two days before school started and therefore missed orientation for both my faculty and hall. As a result, I didn’t know anyone or anywhere and was very nervous. Thanks to the guidance of a fellow Montserratian, I was able to find my faculty. If it was one thing I learned during my first semester, it was that the faculty of medical sciences did not play. The transition from cape to university especially in my faculty was a large one and I quickly learnt that I had to learn on the spot and keep a tight study schedule as there would be no time to review the entire syllabus at the end, especially since we usually got a few days to a week “study break” if we were given any at all.
As the semester progressed and I began to make friends, I learnt a very valuable lesson which was: it is very difficult to do medical school alone and being selfish would only cause your demise. As a result, I resorted to studying with a partner or in a group and realized that my grades were better because of this.
My first 5 courses in medical school were Fundamentals of Disease treatment, Embryology and Histology, Molecular Medicine, Musculoskeletal System and a Foundation course called Law, Governance Economy and Society in the Caribbean.
Musculoskeletal system or anatomy as we call it was my most challenging course. In this course we had a practical and theory. Throughout the semester, I learnt for the practical exam during tutorial sessions. In these sessions, we learnt on cadavers or dead human remains. At first it was upsetting to see the pieces of human remains but eventually I got used to it and it became fun.
We were taught how to identify a particular muscle and name the blood supply, venous drainage and nervous innervation. It was quite a lot to remember. In the final practical exam, I was nervous because it was a very interesting exam. There were twenty (20) stations with four (4) questions to be answered per station and five (5) rest stations. At each station, we were expected to answer a number of multiple-choice questions in one (1) minute. At the ring of a bell, we had to move on to a next station, no time to go back. This caused a lot of anxiety.
On the contrary, Fundamentals of Disease Treatment (FDT) was not as challenging but a very heavy course. Its components were pathology, microbiology and pharmacology. Microbiology was a bit challenging for me but luckily my study partner was very good at it. This segment consisted of identifying and knowing about various organisms and how they look under the microscope and how they behave.
Pharmacology was a lot to remember but after learning numerous mnemonics, it became easier. Molecular medicine was very tedious but came with its enjoyment as we learned how to do paternity tests among other genetic testing.
Embryology and histology were very technical for me only because it was quite a bit to remember. In embryology we were required to learn about the formation of a human from egg to birth and what occurs at each week of gestation. For histology we learnt about how different parts of the body looked microscopically. I honestly hated it but later found its importance in diagnosing pathologies.
At last, at the end of my first semester. I was exhausted but it was finished and I set off for home. Time went by quickly and semester 2 started.
In January 2020, I returned to Medical school ready to conquer my second semester courses with a new strategy to do even better. The semester was a very heavy one with seven (7) courses to include Health Care Concepts, Neuroscience 1, Health & the Environment, Cardiovascular System and Cell Biology, Introduction to Medical Practice 1, Basic Hematology and Respiratory System. Some of the courses were year long courses which were completed by year 2 semester 1. I also did another foundation course called Critical Reading and Writing in Science and Technology and Medical science. However, this was cut short when the first case of COVID-19 was detected on the island of Jamaica in March 2020. Classes were suspended indefinitely. On hearing the news I went out to buy two months supplies of groceries.
Due to my fear of COVID I chose to stay in Jamaica instead of travelling home. Later I realized this was a mistake. During my time in Jamaica, I caught up with the load of work that was piling up on me and relaxed by watching Netflix. I also expanded my cooking skills. When I finally decided to travel home in April and called the airport to book my flight, to my surprise the last flight out of Jamaica was travelling that day. Hence, I was left stranded in Jamaica with no one to blame but myself and no one left but me on my flat of 12.
After a few weeks in isolation, one of my friends from Antigua told me about a flight organized by the Antiguan government for their students. As soon as I heard the news, I called my parents so that they could enquire about the flight arrangements.
Semester 2 continued online and I studied with my study partner via zoom during my two weeks quarantine. Covid brought a new twist to my studies, lectures and exams online but thank God I was successful in all my exams.
The beginning of second year saw the continuation of the year long courses from semester 1 from year 1, along with a few new subjects namely Digestive system and Endocrine system. We were cautioned and advised by senior students about the latter two. Thanks for these warnings I was able to start these subjects first on my own and attended extra classes organized by some senior students.
In semester 1 of my second year, I did the last of my 3 foundation courses and I chose “sign language“. It was very educational and enjoyable. I learned how to communicate with persons who are hearing impaired via simple words using hand gestures and the alphabet.
Second year semester 2 was excellent and a great relief since I was only doing 3 courses. Neuroscience 2, Urogenital System and Introduction to Medical Practice 2. Neuroscience 2 was extremely heavy on content. However, I found this subject very interesting and went on to do well.
Urogenital was divided in two sections; obstetrics and gynecology and urogenital system.
Due to the covid pandemic, the Oral health course consisted of a video on conducting the oral exam and a power point explaining our findings. It was a very interesting process given that we were not taught the techniques and had to figure it out.
After successfully completing this, I moved on to the bridge semester between clinical and pre-clinical. Sadly, my summer was cut short by a month due to the early start of school. And this was when I learnt that the more I progressed in medical school, the less vacation or break is given.
Intereseted in taking this course. Here’s their website for more information. Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)
Here’s are tips from a past student of this course Doctor Tiffanie Skerritt on how to live in Jamaica. Friends, shopping, cooking, etc.
Planning to study in the UK, our website has tips on budgeting, mental health resources, masters and other topics.