Some say there is a reason for everything. For Alexxa Friedenthal '04, the decisions and experiences that started in her years at Mayfield have led her to a life of service.
Helping others has been at the core of Alexxa's career path. She studied psychology in college, earned a master's in social work at Columbia University, took on challenging internships, and worked in community mental health before joining the staff at Children's Hospital Los Angeles as a licensed clinical social worker in the kidney transplant/dialysis department. What she has discovered along the way is the help you give is often returned even in extraordinary circumstances.
What challenges do you face as a social worker, and what brings you joy in your work?
A social worker's biggest challenge is often society's preconceived notion that social workers simply take children away from families. Social workers work in a variety of settings, from schools to hospitals. Something that has always brought me joy from my work and particularly right now, is being able to be a listening ear for families.
Sometimes people simply need someone to listen to them, and I can be that person for some of my patients and their families. It is also very rewarding seeing families through difficult times; from learning, they will need a transplant to receiving the transplant and watching them thrive afterward.
How did you choose social work for graduate school and your career?
I knew I wanted to help others, so during my senior year of college, I started looking at career options for people with psychology degrees. I was also volunteering at Children's Hospital Los Angeles at the time and knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to help those in a hospital setting. After doing some research, I saw that social work would give me the options I was looking for. I would be able to help others in a variety of settings and when they needed me most.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic brought a new set of challenges, and how are you coping?
One of the biggest challenges our families have faced has been the fear of coming into the hospital for appointments. We have had to reassure many families that it's still safe to receive medical care in the hospital as they may not be comfortable coming in due to fear of contracting the virus. We have also seen an increase in anxiety in many of our patients and families due to the pandemic and the impact it is having on their family from relatives being sick to income uncertainties. I think showing up for my patients and their families every day and being able to provide support to them has also helped with my own coping. Since I am still able to come into work and support my families, I am able to help them maintain a sense of normalcy even if it is just in their medical appointments. This has helped me maintain normalcy in my own life.
Has your experience changed how you look at things and what is important to you?
This entire experience has reminded many people, including myself, the importance of family, friendship, and connection to others. It is so important to connect with others. It is amazing how a simple phone conversation can turn your day around.
Future plans? Something on your list you'd like to accomplish?
I want to continue to do some of the things I've relearned from my time at home during the Safer at Home Mandate. I have learned to slow down, remember to connect with others, and have picked up some old hobbies like baking. I also can't wait to travel the world again and learn about amazing cultures.
If you could give one piece of advice to your 8th-grade self – what would it be?
Be open to every opportunity that comes your way. You never know where it may lead you or who you might help.