Making a Difference Through Hard Work

Author: Alexander Patananan
Institution:  UCLA
Date:  June 2009

"In the spring of 1883 two young men graduated from medical school. The two differed from one another in both appearance and ambition. Ben was short and stocky. Will was tall and thin. Ben dreamed of practicing medicine on the East Coast. Will wanted to work in a rural community. Ben begged his friend to go to New York where they could both make a fortune. Will refused. His friend called him foolish for wanting to practice medicine in the Midwest. "But," Will said, "I want first of all to be a great surgeon...the very best, if I have the ability." Years later the wealthy and powerful came from around the world to be treated by Will at his clinic...the Mayo Clinic."

- Today in the Word, July, 1990, p. 17.

The Journal of Young Investigators is an amazing organization as well as an oddity. Over ten years after its original founding, JYI is still going strong. What is surprising to most is that JYI is run almost exclusively by undergraduate students. Over the course of a month, one hundred or so undergraduates work together to produce numerous news and features articles, in addition to assisting other undergraduate students in publishing their scientific work. Furthermore, this is all happening while taking class, conducting research, and in some cases, working various jobs. There is no doubt that JYI has made a difference in the lives of many students across the world, whether it be by encouraging our readers to start doing their own research, or by exciting students to actually join the organization. But, how can an organization like this exist under these circumstances? What does it take to make a difference not only on the organizational scale, but also on the individual scale? Let me give you three thoughts to consider as you try to make a difference with your undergraduate education and research.

First, we make a difference through our principles. For example, in today's world, there are many ways to make a lot of money. Although doctors, lawyers, or engineers typically make a great deal of money, it is often at the expense of much training and sacrifice. Likewise, one could make a lot of money doing illegal activities that do not require as much dedication. We thus have to make a choice; do we do what is right but that may require a lot of sacrifice, or do we take the easy route and do something that may be wrong? The choice is yours, but let me suggest to you that the integrity of your name is by far one of the most important things to guard in your life. At JYI, we pride ourselves on the fact that our name is associated with publishing high quality material. JYI's main goal is not to have our staff just busy doing fruitless activities, but rather diligent and faithful in their positions such that one generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.

Second, we make a difference through our peculiarity. Society defines peculiarity in a variety of ways, but this term is most importantly associated with being set apart or distinct. Today, mediocrity is uplifted while excelling is ignored. However, I would encourage you to aim above the mark. At JYI, we have repeatedly aimed for excellence in a field that previously was uncharted. Undergraduate journals frequently come and go. Furthermore, most undergraduate journals publish only on a yearly basis, let alone on a monthly basis. Nevertheless, that did not stop JYI from shooting beyond mediocrity and the norm. What I am trying to say is that you should always stop and contemplate whether the choices you are currently making will leave a good legacy that future generations will want to implement in their own lives.

Finally, we make a difference through patience. As the illustration showed, the main goal of the Mayo clinic founder was to be the best doctor possible regardless of how long it would take. He was not concerned with riches or fame, but rather with serving others. He was willing to endure the sacrifice in order to achieve his goals. One can think of this topic another way - 10% of life is what actually happens to you, while 90% of it is how you respond. Legacies are not made by one decision, but rather by an accumulation of decisions over a lifetime. I challenge you today to consider your status in life. Did you not do as well on that exam that you just took? Did your manuscript get rejected for publication? In the face of challenge, shall we not keep on keeping on? JYI is an organization like any other in that it has had its periods of decline and great challenge. However, what makes JYI the premiere undergraduate journal is its decision to march forward in the face of adversity. Don't think to yourself that you will be more responsible when you obtain a certain position or title like Chief Executive Officer, Editor-in-Chief, or medical doctor. Be responsible and faithful in your current place, whether that is as a high school, undergraduate, or graduate student, and anything else in between! It is by walking with patience and faith that goals are achieved.

Alexander N. Patananan is the Editor-in-Chief at the Journal of Young Investigators. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email them to