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Board Member Spotlight: Dr. Deborah McMahon


By Kaitlyn Nuebel

When Dr. McMahon was asked to travel to Mozambique in 2008 to treat HIV patients, she didn’t question the trip.

“It just felt like the right thing to do,” she said.

A group of doctors from the Catholic University of Mozambique had reached out to McMahon and her team of doctors for help. They wanted to teach physicians how to care for people with HIV and other diseases, and they needed to set up a clinic to do it.

HIV had not yet been identified when she began medical school in the ‘80s, but she has since devoted her 34-year career to researching HIV and treating infected patients.

“When we saw how effective treatment could be [in the United States], we were anxious to help address the HIV epidemic over in Africa,” McMahon said. “[My team] was approached by them and just started thinking ‘How are we going to do it?’” McMahon decided to reach out to Brother’s Brother Foundation to acquire medical equipment and pharmaceuticals for the new clinic. Over the next several months, she developed working relationships with BBF staff and leadership, and in 2011, when BBF’s medical director stepped down they asked McMahon if she would take on the position.

“I was honored to be asked,” she says.

As medical director, McMahon serves on BBF’s executive committee and acts as a consultant to determine which pharmaceuticals BBF should accept and ship from the warehouse.

“Dr. McMahon has provided BBF with invaluable guidance over her tenure as Medical Director,” says Ozzy Samad, president of Brother’s Brother Foundation. “This has included providing insight into specific treatments for diseases as well as explaining hospital and other medical needs faced by our partners. She is always available for BBF staff if there are any questions about our pharmaceutical program or to address healthcare issues faced by the organization itself – such as the challenges provided by Covid-19.”

During her time at BBF, McMahon is proud to have watched the organization increase its local initiatives and strengthen its continual response to disasters.

“I think with climate change [disasters] are unfortunately happening more frequently. There will be different ways we can respond, and I think we’re uniquely prepared to respond to some quickly,” she said.

In addition to enjoying the work she does as Medical Director, McMahon also appreciates the ways it has allowed her to collaborate with people who work in a variety of fields and whom she wouldn’t have met otherwise. Beyond that, she doesn’t spend much time dwelling on the whys.

“I feel committed to the work as others do,” McMahon says. “You just sort of feel called to do it. It’s not like a whole lot of thought, like ‘should I do it?’ No. ‘I’m going to do it.”

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