Martha Aby2015 Rising Alumni

Martha Aby photo

Martha Aby is passionate that all children on Medicaid get access to high quality, effective and culturally specific mental health services. While working in Minnesota’s Department of Human Services she developed new benefits for the State’s Medicaid plan and is the primary author of the 2014 Minnesota Statute, Intensive Treatment in Foster Care (256B.0946). This law increases provider collaboration to improve mental health and permanency outcomes for children in foster care and targeted services that focus on the needs of transition age youth. Martha is currently a doctoral student in social work at the University of Washington in Seattle.


Ph.D. Student,
University of Washington

CEHD Degree

M.S.W., Master of Social Work

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

The children and families that I worked with as a children's mental health social worker for 7+ years in Ramsey County. Whenever I start a research project, develop public policy or convene a stakeholder meeting, I think about those families and what they need from the system.

What gets you excited about work?

I am very passionate about children's mental health Medicaid policy—so much so I'm getting a Ph.D. just so I can understand it more. It is crucial that all children on Medicaid get access to high quality, effective and culturally specific mental health services.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

Getting an M.S.W. was crucial in my professional development and identity as a social worker. I am very passionate about this work, and that focus began in the halls of the School of Social Work.

What's your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

My favorite memories are of teaching students how to clinically engage and assess mental health clients. One assignment in particular was an amazing opportunity for students to video and then annotate their own diagnostic interview with a fictitious client. Getting to see the progress that the students had developed over the semester as well as being able to see/read their reflections on their work was amazing.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

I love all the Robert Caro books on LBJ or 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Pretty much these days I only read books on social welfare policy, research methods, or feminist theory...

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

As a new Ph.D. student, I'm not supposed to have any free time... but you might find me exercising, watching the newest season of House of Cards or getting lost in my new city.