The 4th installment of Emily’s Integrity Week series. View her 3rd post here & stay connected with all Integrity Week activity from across the nation on @NSCS on Twitter & Instagram. 


The ability to make a difference lies in the balance between patience and readiness.

I consider myself very patient with others, but I’m not patient with myself. That made the transition from high school into college difficult— and even more so now, as I’m still in that transition between college and medical school. I’m not patient with not instantly having the background I need to put what I’m learning into context. It’s hard to be patient with practicing the small steps that we as adult learners mustn’t forget are required to master the bigger picture. It’s difficult to remember that I’m not a senior, at the top of the learning curve anymore… for now.

I’m stuck in a current of everything— medical terminology, interviewing techniques, differential diagnoses— that is all new and challenging, without a foothold of experience to brace myself against. It’s at once terrifying and exhilarating. I have to remember to be patient as I learn to find my stride, my way to the surface once again. I have to remember that this current will take me places… where I’m once again confident in my abilities to help others and use what I’m learning to make a difference.

But you don’t reach those places without applying yourself to hard work; the current could easily sweep you past opportunity after opportunity if you’re not carefully attending to building up your abilities. No matter how smart you are or how long you’ve been studying, time and time again you’ll need to learn things the hard way— through patience with yourself, diligent practice of small steps, dedication over time, and making mistakes in order to learn from them. It’s true what they say… nothing worth doing ever comes easy.

I’ve found that finding your passion doesn’t necessarily mean finding what comes naturally to you; it means finding where you’re eager to put in the time to learn and happy to work hard in honing your craft.  My greatest wish for all of you scholars is that you find your passion and pursue it with all of the dedication and patience it requires. Certainly, if you do, your accomplishment at the end of college will be so very worth it.

Even though it will take patience to become great at whatever it is you want to do, don’t forget to be ready to apply what you’ve learned so far where you can to make a difference. I did not find a more rewarding way to learn, practice applying my knowledge, or build confidence in my skills than through serving others where I saw an opportunity to contribute. As a pre-med student, that meant starting to work with patients as a community and hospital volunteer to learn about empathy and health care, as well as volunteering to conduct research on cardiovascular disease in order to apply what I was learning from my biochemistry textbooks. I was no expert walking into those experiences, and I still am not… but I was eager and prepared to give what I had in order to help others in need and demonstrate my civic integrity.

You don’t have to wait to take the lessons you’ll learn in college and put them into use in your community. As you learn about the world, recognize injustices when you see them and apply yourself to helping overcome them. As you learn skills, identify those who might benefit from them and do your best to help. I wish I had known that even at the beginning of my academic journey, still with so much to learn, the possibilities to apply myself to help others in my local and global communities were limitless. So be patient in the classroom, but don’t confine yourself to it. Be ready to seize the opportunity to make a difference that waits just outside its walls.