Mary McMahon received her Master's in Nursing from the CU College of Nursing in 1984 and spent the majority of her nursing career in women's and infants' health. She was a director of perinatal care for more than 12 years, most recently at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. McMahon then served as a consultant in transformation services for three years. She graduated with the College of Nursing's Healthcare Informatics certificate in 2011. Mary completed her professional career as the Clinical Specialist of Informatics at National Jewish Health where, for five years, she supported a multidisciplinary team to maximize and sustain the electronic medical records. After more than 40 years working as an army nurse, staff nurse, director of perinatal nursing, informatics specialist, and healthcare transformation consultant, she is enjoying her third year of retirement.
Throughout her nursing career in perinatal care and informatics, McMahon has not only shared her smile, she has given patients reason to smile. "My job is assuring safety and quality needs for patients are met, which is what most nurses are doing. We just do it in our different areas of focus."
Improving patient outcomes and recognizing implicit bias in healthcare has become a passion for McMahon. In 2015 she became involved on the state and national level addressing concerns related to the high rate of preterm births and maternal deaths in Colorado and the US, in particular for women of color. She took on a personal commitment to encourage people of color to consider nursing as a career, as an effort to improve patient outcomes. McMahon felt especially encouraged to hear Dean Provencio-Vasquez’s commitment to diversity in the nursing students, faculty, and staff at the College. Noting her own biases, McMahon recalls being impressed by a black woman presenting at a national conference who had a PhD, as did both of the speaker’s parents. “Wow – that is amazing”, she thought, and then questioned herself - “why are this woman’s achievements surprising to me?” She has always considered herself an advocate for social justice, but now recognizes that we all have implicit biases. Her call to action is for everyone to consider your own implicit and systemic biases. Her advice – start by completing an assessment of your own bias, commit to addressing bias in your work, and do anything you can to encourage people with diverse backgrounds to consider a healthcare career.
In addition to her family and patients, giving back to her alma mater is important to McMahon. She is a member of the College of Nursing Alumni Association Board of Directors and has been involved in the organization since 2004. "It's such a great opportunity to stay involved with not only the College of Nursing but with the University of Colorado," she said. "I'm proud to be an alum. My daughter's an alum who earned her bachelor's from CU-Boulder, and I always like to point out that I'm a Buffalo, too!" In 2009 Mary was humbled to receive the honored Colorado Nightingale award, recognized for caring and advocacy for childbearing families and for leadership in the professional organization, AWHONN, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nursing.
Regarding the current coronavirus pandemic, McMahon had no physical human contact from March to June 2020 due to isolation requirements, which was difficult after a career based on healing through human touch. She remains committed to improving the health in our communities through lifelong learning in the nursing profession, keeping dedicated to evidence-based and personalized care that focuses on the body, mind, and spirit.
Contributing writer: Mary McMahon