Martha Cohn Romney ’81, JD, MPH is one of 10 individuals to earn the highest honor bestowed by the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) for distinguished service to the University this year. Known as Marty to her friends, she says earning the title of 2017 Columbia University Alumni Medalist came as a big surprise.
“I actually thought I was being contacted to join a CAA Committee—which I would have been pleased to join,” Romney said. “It never entered my mind that I had been nominated to receive the Alumni Medal. Immediately thereafter I felt and will always feel very humbled.”
The award has been given by the University since 1933, and Romney is the 15th alum from Columbia Nursing to earn the distinction. According to the CAA website all recipients must be a Columbia alumnus and also have sustained active, substantial, and enduring participation in the CAA for at least 10 years to qualify.
According to Reva Feinstein, associate dean for development and alumni relations at Columbia Nursing, Romney meets these qualifications and more.
“Marty is gracious, positive, and has a wonderful, wry sense of humor,” Feinstein said. “She also usually says ‘yes’ when asked to get involved.”
In recent years Romney has helped to organize a University-wide summit on Ebola, led numerous alumni board and committee meetings, delivered congratulatory remarks at Columbia Nursing’s graduation, served on the board of the Columbia University Club of Philadelphia, and attended countless events with alumni and students. According to Feinstein, her dedication to the school has not gone unnoticed by the majority of her peers. “Columbia Nursing alumni leaders were clamoring to collaborate with our office to nominate Marty for this distinction,” she said.
Romney graduated from the masters of science program in the pediatric nurse practitioner track at Columbia Nursing in 1981. In addition to serving Columbia Nursing’s Alumni Association Board since 2007, she served two terms as the school’s representative to CAA’s Board of Directors, including participating on the initial and current CAA Strategic Planning Committee. From her very first meeting she says she knew it would be an extremely rewarding experience.
“My greatest joy in being selected to receive the Alumni Medal is the ability to represent Columbia Nursing,” Romney said. “I am so very proud to have attended Columbia Nursing and to be a member of the school’s alumni community. Anything I can do to support and bring awareness and recognition to the school is a privilege.”
Romney says she appreciates all of the opportunities her time at Columbia Nursing offered her. She credits the guidance and assistance from the Columbia Nursing Development and Alumni Relations staff, Nursing School alumni, and CAA staff for enriching both her professional and personal life in many ways.
“Through my involvement in alumni, school and university events, my knowledge and insights about changes in nursing education, practice research, and policy as well as our opportunities to improve the health of our populations have expanded” she said. “As nurses we have an impact on improving health and quality of life through educating individuals and communities, providing access and delivering quality and cost-effective preventive care and treatments, and informing health systems and the existing legal/regulatory infrastructure about value and evidence-based interventions, and policies and initiatives to address the social determinants of health locally, nationally, and globally.”
She recommends all alumni consider becoming involved in the school. “Columbia Nursing has a long and significant history,” Romney said. “We are members of a global alumni community of intelligent, passionate, accomplished and visionary healthcare professionals with whom we can engage, collaborate and celebrate.
“We have the opportunity to enrich our professional and personal lives through networking and participating in the multidisciplinary and diverse initiatives and programs offered by the Nursing School as well as Columbia University,” Romney said.
No matter where you’ve landed after your time at Columbia, she says every alumni is welcome and encouraged to participate and support our students and our alma mater. “Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of such a rewarding experience?,” she said.
Receiving the Medal includes a series of events and honors from the University, including being honored at the pre-Commencement Trustees’ breakfast at Low Library on May 17, and marching at the Columbia University Commencement with President Bollinger and other Trustees. She will also be featured at the Medalist Gala in October 2017 in tandem with Columbia Alumni Leaders Weekend, where Romney will also be featured in a video interview that will be shown at the gala.
Romney is currently an assistant professor at the Jefferson College of Population Health at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia where she conducts public health and health services research and teaches in the Masters of Public Health and Population Health Science Doctoral programs.