Why I Strive: ‘I Love Doing Something That Makes Life Better for Somebody Else’

Author : Strive Health
Strive Social Worker Alan Meisterman shares his personal journey that led him to help people with kidney disease live healthier and happier lives.     

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids face this question many times.  Alan Meisterman was no exception. By age 17, he knew what he wanted to be. He wanted to be “as far away from home as possible.”

Going off to college seemed like the best way to launch the next phase of Alan’s life. He left Boston, Massachusetts, and went to college in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was smitten by an unexpected career path. Alan says that 40 years later, his work continues to inspire him as a licensed clinical social worker.

What set you on this career path of social work?  
To help pay my school expenses, I took the one job the college had left: working in a group home for developmentally disabled children. I went there at mealtime to help in whatever way was needed. This job I reluctantly took became a two-year commitment.

While at that job, a six-year-old girl named Teresa had a profound impact on my life. She would lash out at other staff and children, and we had to watch her carefully. One day after receiving a scolding, she started crying. A staff member went to console Teresa, and Teresa gave her a bone-crunching hug. Just like that, she began to laugh, to cry and to crave affection. We were able to reinforce positive behavior. By the end of my first summer at work, Teresa was able to go back home and live with her family.

On her last day before going home, I took her for a ride on my bike – one of her favorite activities. When her mom arrived to pick her up, she ran to her and gave one of her now famous bone-crunching hugs. When I finished my shift and went home, I sat in my bed and cried. A special person had just left my life. I did not know if I was crying about my loss or for Teresa’s happiness. I hoped that Teresa would find moments of happiness. I prayed her light would shine on others as it had on me.

After that day, I was no longer a bumbling 17-year-old boy who had run away from home. I was now a young man who had just discovered what he would do for the rest of his life. I would dedicate myself to helping others, people like Teresa.

I had many other jobs. I worked in group homes with children who were neglected and abused. I took night shifts to supervise kids while they slept. I had a live-in job working with developmentally disabled adults. I got an AmeriCorps internship to help inner city girls and to develop after-school activities. My work experiences inspired me to get my master’s degree and to pursue a career in social work.

How do you get to use your talents at Strive Health?
I have enjoyed the past 30+ years working with people with kidney disease. Some of my patients I knew for over 20 years. I had many rewarding experiences.

When I came to Strive Health, I was excited about a fresh start. The team at Strive is doing something no one else is doing. We are hyper-focused on the patient’s well-being and do not leave any stone unturned. Social workers at Strive are part of the Kidney Heroes™ team, which is an interdisciplinary team of nurse practitioners, licensed clinical social workers, registered dietitians, medical assistants, care coordinators and clinical pharmacists that are committed to whole-person care.

We serve as an extension of the patient’s doctor and work on the patient’s behalf. We are trained to provide highly specialized care and we understand the intricacies of kidney disease.

My focus is on our patients’ mental well-being. Because of their medical conditions, some of our patients have lost important roles or lifestyles. For example, someone might lose their ability to drive or to work. We help patients set new goals that are realistic and achievable. Having a future focus is essential. If someone is depressed, I help them cope with their difficulties. It is essential that when we provide kidney care, we do our best to maximize a patient’s health and to promote a high quality of life.

Why do you strive?
I strive because I love doing something that makes life better for somebody else. Strive has allowed me to do that. I love my market team, my social work team and the general Strive team. Everyone is caring and approachable. When I have had ideas that I felt may enhance the patient or Strive team experience, I have always found my Strive team open to discussion. This does not happen in many companies. I love my job and I am excited about what I do. I feel blessed that I have a job where I can help others. By doing our best, we can make a difference in the lives of our patients.

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