With 1,200 connections on LinkedIn, 900 Facebook friends, and 26,000 blog posts reaching 4 million visitors in 15 years, Glenn Matsuki, program consultant at The Alliance and 27-year heart recipient, is more than a networker. He’s the ultimate connector (a term coined by author Malcolm Gladwell to describe a handful of people who seem to know everyone). That ability to keep and make friends also makes him an effective mentor and is a skill he says he learned growing up.
“When you grow up in Hawaii, you learn the Aloha Spirit, and that’s basically be kind to others, accept others for what they are, and appreciate their culture and what they represent,” says Matsuki.
Matsuki said that Aloha Spirit has served him well through a variety of careers which have included working at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, owning a floral shop and a pirate radio station, and becoming the Transplant Administration Coordinator at Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center. He says he’s paying forward the help he’s received and is serving as a mentor in The Alliance Mentorship Program – a national network of peer mentors for the organ donation and transplantation community of practice.
After his 1995 heart transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Matsuki joined the liver transplant team where he honed his mentoring skills working with high school students in the Youth Employment Development Program. “Both of my Cedars-Sinai mentees have now become RNs.”
Being an active listener is at the core of Matsuki’s mentoring style. “Allowing people to express their thoughts, their concerns, their fears, and their challenging situations and talking about and celebrating small successes is key.”
“I think I get more out of mentoring than I give to my mentee because I’m very proud of their accomplishments,” he says. “I always tell my mentee that the commitment I want out of you is that you’re going to mentor someone else. You’re going to take what you learn and you’re going to help that person became a leader as well.”
After graduating from the University of Hawaii, he joined Sheraton Hotels & Resorts due to a bad case of wanderlust created by his family. “By the time I graduated from high school, I had been to all 50 states and three Canadian provinces,” says Matsuki.
In addition to wanderlust, he says his family also created his tenaciousness. “My parents and grandparents really instilled in me that you work hard, you do your best and if you fail, you try, try again. That’s been my mantra throughout life.”
After more than a decade at Sheraton, he left in 1985 to run a floral group that he had invested in. “I’m still friends with some of my customers from the flower shop,” he says. In 1995, he caught a flu that progressed rapidly from an infection to congestive heart failure. He was on the waiting list for 11 weeks and said his post-transplant recovery still holds the record at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was admitted on a Friday and went home the following Saturday.
After his transplant, his life took another turn and he volunteered at Cedars-Sinai. “I would greet patients that were being evaluated for heart transplantation. I shared my story to express that there’s life after transplant and not to fear. And, you know, right now, I’m still friends with a few people that I consulted with.”
Eventually, he became the administrative coordinator in the liver transplant program and then joined the organ procurement organization OneLegacy. He went on to serve as a project manager at Donor Network West and as a program director at The Alliance.
While at OneLegacy, Matsuki was assigned to work with two pediatric hospitals. “At one of the first conferences I attended, I heard [Dr.] Tom Nakagawa speak and he really helped me. He became my mentor.”
“I’m especially proud of my work in healthcare,” he says. Being able to speak to a broader audience at conferences and sharing knowledge of best practices to increase organ donation are the things I’m really proud of.”
The following is a quote from a friends Facebook post:
A mentor, a friend, a confidant, a soul among souls. He will be forever missed and forever remembered. Our hearts and prayers are with John and the family during this time of mourning and remembrance. Sending our love.
Glenn is survived by his partner, John Coltrin, his sister and brothers, Susan Zuttermeister (Carl), Keith (Edie) and Brian Matsuki and many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.