December 2020 Alumni Spotlight
December 2020 Alumni Spotlight with Marny Smith, MSEd ’17
In this month’s special alumni spotlight, we speak to Marny Smith who is both an alumna and Assistant Director of Graduate Career Services of the Marxe School. She tells us about her relationship with the Marxe community, what Marxe means to her, and her passion for maternal health including the US’ high stillbirth rate.
As a former student turned alumna and staff member, what does Marxe mean to you?
Working at the Marxe school after graduating with my Master’s degree in 2017 has been a full circle journey. I was first introduced to the school by Suzanne Grossman, Deputy Director of Career Services and Alumni Relations at Marxe, who is now my manager. At the time, I was working in the private sector, in human resources and recruiting, but knew what I really wanted to do was to help people build their careers by working in career services at a higher education institution. Suzanne impressed upon me the importance of getting my Master’s degree and I ended up applying to Marxe. In addition to earning my Master’s I went on to become a Certified Professional Resume Writer and Certified Professional Career Coach. When there was an opening to work with Suzanne, I leapt at the chance.
The Marxe School has not just given me employment, but it’s given me the meaningful work I craved; a community of colleagues, students, and alumni all working to make this world a better place; a network of incredibly diverse and accomplished professionals; and the opportunity to develop and grow professionally.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments in your role in Marxe Career Services thus far?
There are so many. Every time a student gets a job, fellowship, or internship will always be cause for celebration. Every time a student emails me that she is re-energized in her job search. Or feels more confident interviewing. Or more capable of writing an effective cover letter. I would say it’s important to consider big wins and small wins, but these are all big wins. Career services is a process and every step you take matters — and gets you closer to your goal — whether that’s networking, getting an interview, securing a job offer, negotiating your salary, or even reaching out to a new connection.
That said, if we want to talk about groundbreaking accomplishments — I can name a few “firsts” that I am exceptionally proud of.
In the summer of 2019, two Marxe students were the first recipients of the Harold W. Rosenthal Fellowship in International Relations from Baruch, Marxe, and CUNY ever.
Also in the summer of 2019, an MPA student was the first accepted into the UNA NY Summer Scholars program from Baruch, Marxe, and CUNY ever.
In addition to career services, you’re also passionate about maternal health and reducing inequalities in healthcare.
Yes, I became an advocate for these issues after my son, Heath, was stillborn at almost 37 weeks in September of 2019. At the time, I didn’t realize how many lives stillbirth claims because in our society, stillbirth is considered a taboo topic associated with stigma and shame and therefore is not spoken about.
The stillbirth rate in the US is shockingly high. 25,000 babies are stillborn in the US every year. That’s 1 in 160 pregnancies. It’s 70 babies dying every day. That’s more deaths than SIDS, prematurity, flu, guns, poison, and fire combined. This number has barely budged in 20 years. It’s important to know that current efforts to prevent infant deaths do not include stillbirths.
Though stillbirth cuts across all socioeconomic classes, races, and maternal age groups — this devastating health crisis is hitting Black mothers the hardest. Due to systematic racism, Black women in the US are 2-3 times more likely to experience a stillbirth. In fact, stillbirth is so common that a Marxe student was in the same bereavement support group that I was in.
I understand that one of the classes you took at Marxe gave you an idea of how you could make a difference on this issue.
That’s correct. In Don Waisanen’s class, Communication Strategies, we read a book called Switch by Chip and Dan Heath who write about effecting lasting change. One of the stories included in the book is about the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and its founder, Don Berwick. Don and his team realized that hundreds of thousands of people were dying avoidable deaths that could be prevented by introducing proven best practices at hospitals across the country. He created the 100,000 Lives Campaign and challenged hospitals to save 100,000 people in 18 months. He said: “Some is not a number. Soon is not a time. The number is 100,000. The time is NOW.” By the end of those 18 months, they had saved 120,0000 people.
After reading this story, I teamed up with the Star Legacy Foundation (SLF), a US nonprofit dedicated to stillbirth education, prevention and research. We are raising money to spearhead a Learning Network/Collaborative to implement proven Scottish NHS stillbirth prevention protocols in the US. Our goal is to reduce the rate of stillbirth by 15% for 20-30 healthcare systems in the US. At least 50% of these health systems will be serving predominantly Black patients.
NHS protocols have already reduced the stillbirth rate in Scotland by an astounding 23%, resulting in hundreds of living babies going home with their families that otherwise would not have. If we succeed, we will push for hospitals across the US to adopt these protocols.
The Star Legacy Foundation and myself are pursuing this initiative with Ariadne Labs, the joint health systems innovation center between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Our goal is to raise $500,000. We’ve already raised about a quarter of that, and I’m thrilled to say that Phase 1 of this work begins in early 2021. That said, we still have a lot of fundraising to do for Phase 2.
Donations can be made via Facebook fundraiser through December 20th or directly through the Star Legacy Foundation by clicking the orange “Donate to the Ariadne Project” button: https://starlegacyfoundation.org/ariadne/