Published January 31, 2022
When Mary Frances Couchman Marlin was a senior in high school, she told her father that she wanted to go to the Pratt Institute in New York City to become a graphic artist.
“He said, ‘No, Mary Frances, you will be a nurse and you will go to college to become one,’” she explains. “So, I said ‘Okay’!”
In 1961, Marlin was accepted to the UB School of Nursing with a full regent’s scholarship.
“The first day of class was monumental,” she explains. “Dean Anne Walker Sengbusch told us that from that day on, [we] would never be the same. She said that we will change in ways you cannot imagine and would share the greatest joys and sorrows that humans can endure.”
And she was right. In her senior year, Marlin told Dean Sengbusch that she would have to drop out of school because she could not afford to pay her tuition.
“Dean Sengbusch said, 'You will not drop out!', Marlin explains. “Then she got her purse and wrote her a check for the last semester. I paid her back, and I will always remember her kindness.
"The nursing faculty were also so great in supporting me,” she adds. “They taught me critical thinking skills, which are so important. I greatly value the education I received at UB.”
Following college, Marlin began working as a staff nurse at Buffalo’s Veteran’s Administration hospital. Shortly after, she married her childhood sweetheart and UB classmate, Daniel Marlin.
“I met my husband when we were in third grade,” she says. “While I was at the School of Nursing, he was at UB in the School of Engineering.”
Together, they had three children and lived in New Jersey, Rochester, New York and Long Island before moving to Wimbledon, England. They then moved back to the U.S. and settled in California, where they lived for the majority of their lives. Today, they live in Las Vegas.
In 1986, Marlin earned her master’s degree in family health nursing from the University of San Diego. Shortly after, the Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo hired her to develop the Community Education Department.
“I reported to the director of marketing in that role,” she says. “He wanted me to develop a health information booth in the Mission Viejo Mall. I staffed it with registered nurses who offered physician referrals, blood pressure screening, health information, and a variety of health promotion classes in the community."
Following her time at Mission Hospital, Marlin began working for the Children’s Hospital of Orange County and developed the hospital’s Community Education Department.
“Our department saw 200,000 community members a year,” she explains. “I chaired the Drowning Prevention Network and the Violence Prevention Network for two years, formed the first Orange County Chapter of National Safe Kids, developed children safety programs, and produced two drowning prevention documentaries. One won a silver award from the America Corporate Video awards and the other was a finalist in the International American Medical Association Film Festival.”
In 2002, Marlin formed Health Options, her own company, which enabled her to become a full-fledged nurse consultant in family and community health and injury prevention.
“A consultant has a wonderful role with has a lot of freedom," she explains. “As long as one has a strong network, the choice is theirs to accept an invitation to work for an organization.”
At that time, the Orange County Department of Education learned of the research of Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist who believed that if a child under the age of five is exposed to violence, their brain will not develop normally. They sent Marlin to train with him for three days. She then helped Orange County create a program that included co-authoring a parent workbook that has been translated into five languages.
Marlin also spent 27 years of teaching family and community health and health care administration for the University of Phoenix.
Today, Marlin is retired – but her mission to protect children is far from done.
“My close friend drowned when we were 13 years old,” Marlin says, “so drowning was always a point of interest for me. During my career, I authored many programs to help keep children safe. I thought, why not put those messages into some format?”
In 2021, she authored and published a book titled “Kids Safe and Secure” for children 5-8 years old. The book teaches them how to prevent injuries and deaths through lessons presented by a safety frog named Gronwee. This book can be purchased on Amazon or through her website.
The book covers several topics, including drowning prevention, wearing a helmet, crossing the street, having a safety meeting place, calling 911, keeping a safe distance from others and more.
“My 17-year-old grandson wants to be a graphic animator, so he is the one who designed the illustrations in this book,” she says. "And my 18-year-old granddaughter edited the book for me. It was a great family adventure.”
Marlin’s goal is to bust safety myths and help children live.
“Children need to be given the opportunity to learn about these topics to protect themselves and others,” she says. “Unintentional injuries can be prevented!”
When she isn’t working to get the word out about her book, Marlin can be found painting or spending time with her loved ones.
“I’ve had a marvelous career and a wonderful life,” she says. “But I've seen far too many children injured or even die because of something preventable. Those moments are terrible, and they destroy families. Things can get better – and this book can help.”