Student Veteran Aims to Impact Mental Health with Mercy’s Support

Mercy University student and United States Navy veteran Marly Guzman Okine ’25 is a model of resilience and drive. Despite facing adversity along the way, she found her path and is now enthusiastically pursuing her dream of becoming a psychiatrist.

At 19, she joined the military to be a part of something bigger than herself. She wanted to see the world and make a real impact. Three years into her contract, she was an air boatswain handler in the United States Navy stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. However, due to several life challenges including pregnancy loss and the anxiety of a new pregnancy, Okine asked her commanding officer to support her mental health by honorably discharging her from the military — and he agreed.

Okine eventually moved to Las Vegas with her daughter. She enrolled in a faith-based university to become a Christian counselor and expanded a ministry that helped other women through abuse, divorce and loss while growing their faith.

After a few years, Okine and her daughter moved back to the East Coast to be closer to family. As Okine considered how to continue her education, her brother’s girlfriend mentioned how much she loved her education at Mercy and toured Okine around campus. “The rest is history,” Okine said. “As soon as I could, I applied to Mercy and enrolled.”

At Mercy, Okine is majoring in psychology and plans to become a psychiatrist. “Mental health is an area that's extremely important to me,” she said. “I decided that the biggest impact I could possibly make was to get a medical degree and become a psychiatrist. I want to be a safe place for everybody, not just those in my faith community. Everybody deserves to be heard, fought for and loved.”

Mercy has surpassed Okine’s expectations in every way. “I have never in my entire education received as much love and support as I have from Mercy faculty and staff,” she said.

Cheng Chang, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics, supported Okine through a challenging math course. “When I asked Professor Chang for help, he was so accommodating and kind. He would get on Zoom with me every week to go over the problems I got wrong and teach me what I didn't understand. He didn’t have to do that. And he constantly poured words of encouragement into me. He really cared about me.”

Sabrina Dring-Carroll, PACT Mentor, has guided Okine’s academic decisions. “Sabrina is so involved and hands-on,” said Okine. “She goes above and beyond to help me. When one of my electives got cancelled, she immediately enrolled me in a different course that worked for my schedule. She even researched the academic requirements at the medical schools I want to go to and recommends which courses I should take at Mercy to fulfill them. She simply won’t let me fail.”

Dring-Carroll looks forward to seeing all that Okine achieves in life: “Marly is one of the most dedicated students that I have the pleasure of working with. Her commitment to her success is evident. And she has an incredible amount of kindness for everyone who crosses her path.”

Sara Venezian, director of the Office of ACCESSibility, has made sure that Okine has all the accommodations she needs to succeed. “Sara is my personal superhero,” said Okine. “She’s the reason why I didn't give up during one particular semester. I was feeling done because my life always seems like an uphill battle. But Sara did everything she could to make sure I succeeded. I needed a calculator? She’d get one for me. I needed information from a Mercy office? She’d track down the answers for me. She literally bent over backwards for me.”

Venezian said that students like Okine are the reason why she loves her job: “Marly has the biggest heart! She is thoughtful, generous, intelligent and resilient. Her work ethic, strength and tenacity are truly inspiring. I have no doubt that she will reach every goal she has set for herself. She has faced some adversity in her journey, but that doesn’t make her lose sight of her goals.”

As Okine moves toward her dream of becoming a psychiatrist, she does everything she can to channel all the support she has received at Mercy to everyone she encounters: “I want to be a reflection of love to my daughter and my family, to every patient I help, to everyone I meet.” Even in this small way, her life continues to be one of service.