mothers2mothers (m2m) U.S.* today announced that m2m Founder Dr. Mitch Besser has been appointed as its Interim Board Chair by a unanimous vote. Mitch becomes the fifth Chair to lead the m2m U.S. Board of Directors since it was founded in 2003. He succeeds Dr. Donna Futterman, an internationally-recognised leader and activist in the care and prevention of HIV among youth, who has been on m2m’s Board since its inception and has served as Chair since 2015. Following the successful completion of a three-year term which has seen m2m grow in scale, scope, and impact, Donna will now focus on HIV-related projects in her local community in New York. She will continue to provide leadership as a member of the m2m U.S. Board.
“I would like to thank Donna for the tremendous leadership and knowledge she has contributed to m2m since its earliest days, and in particular over the past three years. Her commitment to changing the lives of women and children infected with and affected by HIV, and her passion for adolescents, has been a key element in driving our progress and evolution as an organisation,” said m2m President and CEO, Frank Beadle de Palomo.
“I can think of no one better to succeed Donna at this pivotal time than mothers2mothers’ Founder Mitch Besser. His deep knowledge and long-term involvement with the organisation will provide the strong leadership we need as we embark on an exciting period of growth and development,” Frank added.
Since founding m2m in 2001 at a single site in Cape Town, South Africa, Mitch has played an integral role in m2m’s growth, initially leading day-to-day operations and most recently serving as an active advisor to m2m’s Senior Management Team and a member of its South Africa and U.S. Boards. Since 2001, m2m has grown in scale and scope, and has evolved its initial focus on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV into a family-centred approach that spans pregnancy, birth, childhood, and adolescence. Today, m2m reaches around two million individuals each year, providing a range of health benefits.
Mitch also expressed his gratitude for the contributions Donna has made towards m2m’s success. “These are big shoes to step into. Donna has been one of mothers2mothers’ strongest supporters and advocates since the very beginning. mothers2mothers wouldn’t have grown into the organisation we are today without her leadership and support,” said Mitch.
“I will forever be a supporter and champion for mothers2mothers as well as our need to be internationalists in fighting this epidemic. The m2m Model is proven and still needed, and I especially appreciate the new focus on early childhood development and adolescents in addition to expanding the role of women’s and community empowerment,” said Donna.
Dr. Besser’s appointment is an interim one as the U.S. Board has decided to embark on a period of strategic reflection and renewal to align with m2m’s forthcoming 2018 – 2021 strategic plan. A permanent Chair is planned to be appointed in 2019 and significant announcements about new Board members will be made in the coming months.
*m2m U.S. is an independently governed non-profit entity that—together with mothers2mothers South Africa and mothers2mothers UK—comprise m2m. The U.S. entity provides leadership on resource mobilisation and fiscal oversight of U.S. funding, as well as strategic input on our work in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional biographical information:
Dr. Mitch Besser– Founder & Interim Board Chair m2m U.S.
A Harvard-trained obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr. Mitch Besser has dedicated his professional career to the public health needs of women. In 1999, Mitch joined the University of Cape Town to assist with the development of services for HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). When he discovered that many women who tested positive for HIV were too frightened to return to a clinic for treatment, Mitch founded mothers2mothers in 2001 to provide peer-to-peer education and support to help women access lifesaving PMTCT services. From administering the programme from the trunk of his car and a single site at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital, he has driven m2m’s growth into a global leader in efforts to eliminate paediatric AIDS and create healthy families and communities. Among the many awards that m2m and Mitch have received are the Global Health Council’s Best Practice Award, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, and the Presidential Citizens Award of the United States Government. In 2014, Mitch launched AgeWell Global, which adapts m2m’s peer-to-peer approach to employ older adults to improve the social well-being and physical health of other seniors. He is an active advisor to m2m’s Senior Management Team and serves on our South African and US Boards.
Dr. Donna Futterman – Outgoing Chair, m2m U.S.
Donna is Professor of Paediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY and Director of one of the leading programmes in the U.S. providing comprehensive care for HIV-positive and at-risk youth. She is very active in the HIV/AIDS community, where her many commitments have included chairing the NIH-funded Adolescent Medicine HIV/AIDS Research Network and serving on the American Academy of Paediatrics’ Committee of Paediatric AIDS. She has led PEPFAR-funded programs in South Africa and currently serves on the board of HIVMA (HIV Medical Association).