We are

Pass Program

Proudly Serving Students for 20+ Years


Since 1996

  • March 1, 1996

    PASS Program Begins

    Dr. Francis starts PASS Program out of Champaign, IL.

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  • May 2, 2006

    PASS expands to In-House Teachings

    PASS Program builds its own facilities to host all its lecture activity and house students as well

    Image - About Timeline - Pass Program
  • January 3, 2017

    PASS continues to expand and service students

    PASS Program helps its 10,000th student

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A System Developed through Experience and Success

The Pass Process

Step 1

Cover up the answers and read the last sentence.

Step 2

Declare whether it is a concept or a clue question.

Step 3

Now read the vignette. Evaluate each sentence as you read it.

Step 4

Declare the clue or concept one more time.

Step 5

Find an answer consistent with Step 4.

Meet Our Team


Dr. Francis Ihejirika, MD

Founder/Director of Pass Program

Dr. Francis Ihejirika, was born in a small village of Owerri, Nigeria. He emigrated to the United States at the age of eight, two years after the onset of a Civil War in Nigeria. His family was in fact the first refugee family allowed into the United States in 1969. This required new legislation from Illinois senators at that time. Francis attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, graduating with a degree in Biology. He received his medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Champaign, Illinois.

He did his Internal Medicine and Pediatrics residency at Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois and enjoyed a very successful practice there for nearly 10 years. He returned to the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1997 as a Faculty Member in the department of Pathology and became the academic support for the Urban Health Program which assisted minority students. Under his guidance, the pass rate and test scores for minority students increased significantly. He then developed, and is now current director of the PASS (Physician Assisted Student Success) Program in Champaign, Illinois.

Dr. Diana is a dedicated and experienced clinical medical instructor with a diverse background. Originally from Mexico, she completed her MD degree at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City and has earned her ECFMG certification. With an extensive range of clinical experience spanning both hospital and office practice settings, she possesses a comprehensive understanding of medical care.

Having completed her orthopedic surgery residency at the prestigious Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación (Mexico CIty) she acquired valuable expertise in the surgical field. Dr. Diana has also participated in clinical rotations in the US and Israel, notably she completed a trauma surgery rotation at The Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel and successfully completed her internal medicine electives at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, thereby broadening her understanding of medical practices in the US.

Dr. Gonzalez Hernandez also has a strong background in research, encompassing both basic and clinical domains. She had the privilege of interning at the Institut de la Vision in Paris and throughout her career, she has been actively engaged in research projects, resulting in multiple abstract presentations and the publication of a research article, showcasing her expertise in research.

Driven by her passion for teaching, which began during her medical school journey, Dr. Diana is committed to medical education. She has teaching experience at both medical school and residency levels.

Bilingual in English and Spanish, Dr. Diana proudly stands as an alumni of PASS Program, serving as a living proof of its effectiveness. She firmly believes in the transformative power of education and mentorship, continuously striving to make a positive impact in the lives of students and colleagues alike.

Tristan Headshot
Dr. Tristan Grimaldo, DNP, APRN, MHSM, FNP-C

Clinical Medical Education Program Director

Dr. Grimaldo is a doctoral-prepared & board-certified family nurse practitioner who has dedicated his career to helping patients achieve their optimal level of health. Dr. Grimaldo was the Chief Clinical & Business Officer of a men’s health practice which he helped co-found and grow to six locations in a matter of 8 years throughout the Greater Houston Area. Dr. Grimaldo is also an Associate Professor for TWU and teaches at both the graduate and doctoral levels.

In 2012, he graduated with honors, Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from TWU. In 2015, he graduated with his master’s degree from TWU as a family nurse practitioner. In 2017, Dr. Grimaldo graduated with his Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), a clinical doctorate specializing in men’s health and fertility. In 2020, Dr. Grimaldo graduated with his post-masters degree for Health Systems Management & Administration (MHSM). Dr. Grimaldo received TWU’s Top Doctoral Student Award in 2017. He was also inducted into Sigma Theta Tau and Epsilon Omega Epsilon honor societies.

Outside of work, Dr. Grimaldo practices what he preaches as he loves weight training, running, and playing basketball. He enjoys spending quality time with his lovely wife and two kids. He loves to travel and considers Disney World the perfect family getaway. He is also a huge car enthusiast and an official YouTube Partner! Here is the link to his automotive channel: https://www.youtube.com/@TristanGrimaldo

Dr. Grimaldo joined the PASS Program to:

1. Develop the PASS Preceptorship Program

2. Develop the nursing division for PASS Program

3. Assist with the following Step 2 Lectures:

– Develop the Health Systems Science Lecture (Dr. Grimaldo has a Masters in Health Systems Management & Administration and served as a Chief Clinical Officer & Business Development Officer)

– Infectious Disease

– Preventative Medicine


• Served as a Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) & Chief Business Officer
• Highly rated Urology specialist with a Healthgrades Rating 4.8/5.0
• Successfully grew a small medical practice of 1 physician and 3 medical assistants into 6 locations, 6 medical providers, and a team of more than 20 employees. At one point, it was considered the largest and most highly-rated Urology practice in Houston

Awards & Recognition:

• Honoree of Cum Laude
• Top Doctoral Student Award (2017)
• Memorial Hermann Customer Service Excellence Award
• Top 5 National Compliance Award for Fertility Specialists



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I took my Complex level 1 twice, and this was going to be my third attempt. My school has a 3-strike policy, meaning if I didn’t pass my exam, I would be dismissed from my program. I came to the pass program broken, hopeless, and frightened. With nothing to loose, I embraced everything Dr. Francis and Dr. Le-Pava taught. I embraced their methodology of approaching the material, their guidance on how to approach questions. At the end of the course, I took my exam and I received my score. I increased my score by 148 points from the first time I took the exam. Not only did Dr.Francis re-ignite my passion to study medicine, he taught me the right way to approach medicine and my patients. I left the pass program with hope, determination, and excitement because I was going to be able to get back into doing what I love. You will meet lots of different people from different walks of life, and that in itself is a very humbling experience, because all of us had one goal in mind, to practice medicine for the love of helping others. The Pass center isn’t just the pass center for me; they are my family. I was treated like family from the first day that I got there, until now. I am so thankful for you Dr. Francis and Dr. Le-Pava. Thank you for saving my career, and opening my eyes as to how medicine should be taught and practiced. I will be coming back for step 2 and step 3. See you in a couple months!

Shant P. October 16, 2018

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Thank you for the no-nonsense attitude with which the PASS Program runs its program. The teachers may sound hard, they may at times seem like they don’t care or that they are pushing too much when you have no more to give, but believe me, you need it. I needed it and I had no idea that I did. Thank you for providing me with a new way of looking at the foundation of medicine and for understanding why things happen the way they do. It wasn’t always perfect, but if it was, I wouldn’t have asked the questions and therefore, it wouldn’t have been ingrained into my mind once I finally reached the correct answer. And the tutors, I thank you all as well for your tireless efforts in the evenings and on weekends; with your perspectives and your ability to connect just because you had not long ago gone through it yourself, it truly made a world of difference. So thank you PASS Program! It works, it really does!

Barbara B. October 16, 2018

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There was a time, months ago, when I thought that I knew enough to pass the USMLE Step 1. I went into my first exam after a 3 week program of self-directed learning, 14 hours a day of trying to memorize Kaplan high-yield videos, USMLE World, and First Aid. This was not enough; I failed my first exam by a point. Thank God that somewhere in the midst of the depression and anxiety that accompanied my temporary hiatus from school (I had just started third year) somebody told me about the PASS program. I turned the seeming defeat from my first failure into an opportunity to re-learn and re-organize all of the information that had been piled on me during the first 2 years of med school. Instead of a mountain of memorization, I obtained a superior understanding of normal physiology that enabled me to meet and overcome the challenge of the USMLE step one. Within 2 weeks my NBME scores had shot up by 130 points, and this morning I received my passing score on the USMLE. PASS program’s lessons will last a lifetime; I highly recommend this course for any student doctor, even those who think they might not need it will find that this course presents a unique chance to step back from your education and consider the integration of all the material that has been taught via specialists, PhDs, and subspecialists in that early whirlwind. Many thanks to Dr. Francis, Dr. Ibrahim, and all the people at PASS for a better foundation on which to build a lifetime of medical study and practice!

Brian J. October 16, 2018

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This is Mohanad Deen, I was part of your class in September, 2016 studying for Step 1. I took the Pass Program after failing Step 1 with a score of 190. Coming into the program I knew it was going to help me get through my struggles but I had no idea that it was going to completely overhaul how I see medicine and how I tackle every situation presented to me. I retook Step 1 shortly after finishing the 6 week program in November and I’m happy to inform you I passed with a score of 215. I’ve moved on since those dark days and I look forward to starting my clinical rotations in July. I am sorry it took me a while to reach back and say thank you Dr. Francis. I wholeheartedly believe the approach you took learning medicine will forever help me in my career and I will absolutely be rereading your book several times to prepare for Step 2 and possibly join you again in class in the future. Every medical school in the country needs to learn medicine the way you taught it. You taught me more than I expected and I’ll be sure to continue to practice medicine using the methods you developed throughout your career. Thank you very much for everything, I will be sure to spread the word about your program and how it helped me in my career path.

Mohanad D. October 16, 2018

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I was at the Pass Program for 4 weeks in February and March this past year. I only had 4 weeks for the course because I was on a tight timeline with from my school to complete my USMLE Step 2 CK and apply for residency positions. This was a time of immense stress and pressure from my medical school, family, bank, subconscious, conscious, etc. I had been required to pass a comprehensive NBME prior to writing the CK exam and was stuck at a grade just below the pass mark for a few attempts. The Pass Program was the most important event in my entire medical education. As advertised, it truly allowed me to see the patterns in exam questions, but more importantly understand the fundamental concepts of medicine. After I left the course my NBME scores increased, and I passed the CK exam on the first attempt. I was then able to fulfill the requirements to start my residency in Pediatrics, which has been and continues to be a pleasure and honour to be devoted to every day. I wanted to thank you both for the incredible work you do helping students, who would otherwise be forgotten and discarded, become insightful physicians. I continue to use the fundamental knowledge from the Pass Program, and the engrained passion for “understanding the basics” of science every day in residency.
Thank you both so much. I hope both of you and your families are well.

S. Bennette October 16, 2018

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