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Congrats, you’ve been accepted into Medical school! Still, even though you’ve aced the GAMSAT, the whole idea of medical school is pretty daunting.  But, you can find comfort in the fact that Graduate Entry Medicine is a well-beaten track and by now there are hundreds- if not thousands- of doctors who were GEMs in Ireland.

GEM1 will be a busy year. Semester 1 is designed as a crash-course in the fundamental sciences, while semester 2 is devoted to the Cardio-respiratory system. This means that, regardless of your background, by the end of year 1 you will have a solid foundation in the basic tools of medicine.  

If you ever experience any doubt, remember that you earned your place in the course and you have every right to be here.  Look forward to meeting your new classmates, there will be plenty of bonding as you endure the workload together.  Medsoc’s infamous Wine & Cheese events always kicks-off each semester… so look forward to many new faces at those, as well as plenty of wine (and very little cheese).

Semester 1

PATH20000 Biochem, Immunology, Pharmacology

I’ll talk about this module first because it truly is the real deal. This module encompasses basic scientific principles that you have to learn quickly. This is because this is a 10 credit module and has double the amount of lectures of your other modules. This is very challenging for non-science people but this is what forms the foundation of your medical knowledge. The content can be challenging but the lecturers are really good and make it more digestible. Using external resources is advised such as NinjaNerd YouTube videos, other pathway summary videos and pre-made anki decks. Try to attend every lecture if possible as if you miss a few then you will miss a lot of content and it will be very hard to catch up. Do daily and weekly reviews of the content and your life will be so much easier around exam time. Overall, the exam is fair but this module does take a lot of work to do well in.

ANAT20120 Human Form

Anatomy.. it is a lot of information and a difficult concept for some to grasp. The time investment into learning how to use anki will be incredibly useful down the line so make sure that you try to use anki or some other form of active recall and spaced repetition. This is another 10 credit module so there is lots of content. The portfolio assessments take pressure off as you don’t need to know absolute detail for everything. However, the spotter mcqs are why image-based anki practice is useful. This can be particularly hard for those who have never done anatomy before but it just takes a lot of time and patience. You also have some clinical tutorials where you practice history taking and do some musculoskeletal exams.


GPRS20140 Patient Centred Practice

This module will be your very first taste of actual medical practice. You get put into small groups where you have seminars in which you take patient histories and discuss other ethical aspects. Taking histories is something that takes a bit of getting used to. Some people will naturally be good at it but it takes time for others. Don’t worry if you fall into one category or the other, this is the start of preparing you to think like a doctor. There’s a big project that takes a lot of time so don’t leave that until the last minute. Otherwise, this module is a nice break from the rest.

MDSA20240 Micro, Med Genetics, Neoplasia

This module is really interesting as you get introduced to lots of unique genetic disorders. You also get introduced to microbiology which will come in handy for the principles of infection module in semester 2 of GEM1. Similarly, you get introduced to neoplasia which is useful to the oncology module in GEM2.This module felt useful as there are a lot of key principles that can be applied to other subsequent modules. The content itself was also very interesting to learn. You will also get some seminars from people that share their stories in regard to their medical conditions as well. This is a great experience and it’s fantastic that these people are kind enough to share their stories to further our medical education.

PHYS20050 Cell-Cell Communication

The format of this module has changed a lot over recent years (type the module into Google and you’ll see why). The current format is a mix of Computer Aided Lab (CAL) assessments and a final exam. Physiology is a bit like anatomy in that it can be tricky to get your head around. Similarly, missing lectures can make everything seem very confusing as each process builds on previous information. You just have to keep on top of this and there is some cross-over information. If you’ve done a science degree, then you’ve probably covered a lot of this material. Vanders is a really good book to help explain the concepts and using external video resources is also very helpful. Talk to physiology grads too!! If you’re a BHLS graduate from UCD then you may have already done this module in the past. In that case you need to do a different replacement module which the programme office will tell you about if this applies to you.


This is the only time in the GEM course that you get to take an elective outside of medicine and not even everyone has to do one! For anyone coming from a non-science background Molecules in Medicine is recommended. Most people choose a handy option for the elective so they can to get a bit of R+R during an otherwise hectic semester. On a basic level, it’s heavily advised to select a module that runs just in the first term… but not all medical students are that lazy. Pick Storytime* unless you have good reason not to. Food, Diet, and Health is a sound alternative if Storytime is full.

Molecules in Medicine:

Recommended for non-science grads and not available to science grads. A support for the topics covered in MBLD. This was a module of some controversy in our year. Some found it useful, some did not especially for the amount of work that was required (We had a 33% exam in the second week).

The advantages of this module is that you are finished by week 9 so that means you have one less end of year exam than other students and it allows you an insight into the world of MBLD – especially valuable as non-science students. The class size is small and allows for a more class based rather than lecture based type of learning.

However, it will take up a far larger part of your studies than other students in the far less taxing modules available as electives. This course changed largely from the year previous where assessments were mostly assignment based to our year where it was three 33% open book exams (Open book is essentially useless but good to have as a backup if you get stuck) so it may change again.

My personal advice is to go to the first few lectures of this module even if you haven’t registered for it and suss it out for yourself.

Basic Principles of Cell Biology:

This is a fairly straight forward module with plenty of overlap with other modules especially MBLD. For most people it will be incompatible as Cell Signalling and communication is the next (and more difficult) module in the sequence of cell biology lectures. Some students from Science or Biomed backgrounds may be able to get an exemption from Cell Cell and take up this module instead. More than half the module will be covered in MBLD with almost the exact same lectures (sometimes given over 2 lectures for what is covered in MBLD in 1 lecture) on DNA, Protein, Transcription, translation and immunology. It also features very basic concepts in signal transduction. This module is a good module for anyone without a science background as it reinforces aspects of other modules. It is also nice for those from science backgrounds who don’t feel like doing a lot of work so as to focus on the more taxing core modules. It is examined by three in term assessments (3 posters on transcription, “the cell” and protein structure worth 13.33% each) and an end of term MCQ (60% of the module)  As far as I remember the MCQ was reasonable and the posters were handy for picking up marks. However the poster on protein structure (Dr. Stephen Pennington’s part of the module) was graded rather harshly so I would recommend putting in a little more thought into this one.  

Introduction to Psychology (Semester 1 or Semester 2):

Intro to psychology is that rare elective which is both easy and interesting. It will allow you to take a much needed break from the health science building to trek over to the arts building, where you'll receive some pretty entertaining lectures on the basics of psychology. As a first year module, it won't be taxing either. Assessment comes in two parts: a mid-term consisting of MCQs and short notes and an end of semester exam. Another nice thing is that the lecturers will make it obvious what is coming up on both exams. Only downside to this module is that it can fill up quickly once registration starts, so try and get in there early.


Food, Diet and Health (Semester 1 or Semester 2):

Easy to follow course material with fair assessments. Three MCQs in total (two during term, one at end). Very very manageable.

Semester 2

ANAT20070 Anatomy of the Thorax:

Anatomy again is very tough as the exam requires a lot of knowledge. Again, investing time and energy is what can make this more digestible. Some advice from lots of our year said that they wish they had spent more time on it because the exam felt very hard. Perfecting anki and being consistent is really the main way of doing well but there are different ways that work for different people. Even if you have done thoracic anatomy in the past, don’t neglect this as there is a lot more content than meets the eye. Overall, this module is very interesting but there is a large volume of content.


CLIP30170 Cardiorespiratory Therapeutics:

This module is the most unique in comparison to the others. This introduces you to ‘PBL’ or ‘problem based learning.’ Every second week you are in a small group in which you discuss a case and come up with learning objectives. You’ll figure out what this is like after the first one or two sessions. There is also a prescribing exam which is an online exam using the BNF. This exam was very hard and it is a unique style of exam. This is to prepare us for exams later in the degree. If you have any pharmacists in your year, then they will be able to provide some tips and tricks and knowledge. It is very interesting learning about drugs and prescribing but it does take a lot of time to become familiar with where exactly the answers can be found on the BNF. It just takes a lot of practice and patience.

MEMI30040 Principles of Infection:

100% final exam module but it probably one of if not the most interesting modules. Professor Chan is fantastic and he does “Chanathons” at the end of the module where he essentially covers everything again at light speed. This module is a right of passage as a UCD medical student as it’s a fun but interesting time. You learn about antibiotics, bacteria, and fungi. All of which are very applicable aspects to working as a doctor. Try to keep up with the content as it is a 100% exam. However, the Chanathons are the key to keeping everything fresh in your head. Be prepared to take notes as fast as your hand can write. But you’ll absolutely be fine for the exam. Do not miss the Chanathons!


MDSA30160 Cardiorespiratory Disease:

You’ll notice that there’s lots of overlap between this module, principles of infection and Cardiorespiratory therapeutics. This makes life a lot easier as you cover things more than once. This is another 100% final exam module so be careful about that. The content is interesting and the tutorials are extremely useful so definitely make sure to attend them. You also have clinical tutorials in this module where you take histories and do some cardiac/respiratory exams just like Human Form in semester 1. Overall, this module is very interesting but be very careful about the fact that it is a 100% final exam.

PHPS20010 Epidemiology, Biostats, Public Health:

This module is very digestible if you have done a science degree as they cover very basic biostatistics. This module is essentially there to get everyone on the same level with regard to these subjects. There is a lot of group work for this module which is actually quite fun and interesting to design and present. However, be careful as it can take up a lot of your time which would be better spent elsewhere. There’s lots of continuous assessment so try to tackle it as soon as you can so you don’t get stuck with lots of deadlines with other modules too. This is basically the “Patient Centred Practice”esque module of second semester.

PHYS20150 Cardio and Respiratory Physiology:

This is a 10 credit module and by far consumes the most time and work. There are lots of lectures because you essentially cover all of the physiology of 3 undergrad modules (cardiac, vascular, respiratory biology). There are also tutorials and assignments to try and reinforce your learning. Again, try to go to these lectures as it moves so fast that you will get lost and find it extremely difficult to find your way again. External resources like Vanders, YouTube etc, are absolutely the way to go as you’ll probably need multiple sources of information to grasp the content. Talk to your physiology grad friends as much as you can. Doing group work with them is definitely a good idea. It can feel tedious and heavy but you will get through it with time and patience.

Other GEMs of wisdom:

Do your best to focus your energies on doing the amount you are capable of. Try to make peace with the fact that nobody covers everything and that it will always look like there are others doing more than you. Realising this early on saves on stress.

There is a huge value in participating fully in your class. I mean this in the sense of making time to hang out and do things that aren’t class with your new classmates. The GEM program structure means you only have the first two years together, just because you’ve made college friends before doesn’t mean there isn’t some pretty great ones in your course too. There’s plenty of opportunities to mix with people including a surf trip organised by the year above (GEM2s), the tag rugby tournament in the second semester and many social nights.

Give yourself a break.


Coming back to university is challenging, especially when it’s medical school, and even more so when you have travelled halfway across the world for the opportunity. Be kind to yourself and look after the basics like sleep, eating well, and (if you’re really great) some exercise to get you through the year in fine fettle.

Don’t forget that the undergrads will one day be your colleagues so try and keep your disdain for them at a minimum. You’re likely to do better at muscling yourself towards the free sandwiches, tea, or wine at MedSoc events if you’ve made an effort to speak to them before so just do it!

Run for Medsoc rep if you so desire, its great craic meeting students in other years and attending the events.  If leadership roles aren’t for you, be sure to speak openly with your Medsoc rep about what you think Medsoc could provide for you.  

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