top of page

MEET THE TEAM: Karen McDermott

What career would be perfect for someone with a passion for animals, a background in science and a gift for writing? Meet Jeff Winton Associates consultant Karen McDermott, who aspired to be a veterinarian but realized after college that she could make a difference as a communications professional supporting animal health and biopharma companies.

When Karen was growing up in the suburbs of Albany, N.Y., her keen interest in animals led her at age 14 to a part-time job at a veterinary hospital a few miles from home. She worked there all through high school and on summer breaks from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), where she received a bachelor’s degree in animal science. 

Karen originally hoped to become a veterinarian, but life took her in a whole different direction. Shortly after college, Karen married Mickey McDermott, a fellow Cornell student, and they briefly moved to Texas, where she applied her scientific background to working in a lab at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

“I quickly learned that lab research was not for me,” Karen chuckles.

Karen and dogs.jpg

Karen with her rescue pups: Zuzu (white pitbull) and Ruby (mixed hound) in her backyard in Upper Black Eddy, Pa.

While deciding upon her next career move, the couple relocated to New York (first to Brooklyn and later to Westchester County) and commuted into Manhattan for four years. Karen landed an entry-level job for publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 

“Writing was always easy for me, and I had taken a few writing courses,” says Karen. “Before I knew it, I was traveling for Food Management Magazine to Germany, Hawaii and other locations to interview leaders in the food service industry and write feature stories. It opened my eyes that a writing career could be a viable avenue for me.”

Karen’s next job involved writing and editing movie and video scripts, brochures and monographs for a documentary and promotional film company. She also served as a liaison to animal health clients.


“I didn’t know it then, but that experience was an important stepping stone to my landing work in the pharmaceutical industry,” says Karen.

Karen on Icy.jpg

Karen riding Icy at an indoor arena for exercise.

For more than 35 years, Karen and Mickey have called Pennsylvania home.  In 1988, Karen launched what soon became a bustling freelance business with an impressive list of biopharma clients, including Pfizer, Merck, DuPont, Teva Marion Partners, Hoechst, Roche and McNeil. In 2005, she briefly paused this enterprise to direct the public relations and marketing efforts of the nonprofit organization, Pearl S. Buck International, dedicated to humanitarian aid and intercultural education. 

Since resuming freelancing in 2007, Karen has continually been in high demand due to her reputation for listening to the needs of clients, becoming immersed in the subject at hand and developing clear, effective communications for a range of target audiences. In 2020, when Jeff launched Jeff Winton Associates (JWA) with his partner, Jim Modica, Karen was one of the first communications professionals he approached to write for a range of biopharma clients. Jeff later expanded her scope to include the nonprofit organization, Rural Minds, that he founded in 2022 as a result of his nephew’s suicide due to mental illness.

Karen and shaggy horse.jpeg

Karen rode this horse through the rugged volcanic landscape in Iceland.

Karen ranks her work with Rural Minds as a career high point due to her ability to help raise awareness for mental illness in rural America and reduce the stigma through education and access to needed resources.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been philanthropically focused,” says Karen. “Recently, I delivered meals to housebound people for a local Meals on Wheels program and, at a therapeutic riding center, I worked with patients who had traumatic brain injuries.” She adds, “I have also rescued many feral kittens over the years, bottle feeding them and finding homes for them – or in some cases keeping them as my own pets. Dogs too.”

IMG_0476 (1).jpeg

Relaxing with some sea lions on the Galapagos beach after snorkeling. 

Karen and Mickey have an assortment of pets, including a Friesian horse (Icy); a cat (Purrdy) that Karen found as a stray kitten; a love bird named Kudo; and three rescue dogs: Zuzu, a pitbull mix; Ruby a hound mix; and Miracle, a chug – chihuahua/pug mix. 

Karen notes, “Miracle was ‘time-stamped’ and about to be euthanized when I adopted her. It was heartbreaking knowing she had come so close to losing her life.”

When Karen isn’t weaving compelling messages for JWA or Rural Minds, hanging out with her family tops her list of favorite ways to spend her time.

Karen and Mickey on carousel.png

When a real horse isn’t available, the Perkasie, Pa. carousel does the trick. Karen is pictured here with her husband Mickey on an outing with one of their daughters and grandkids.

“We have three daughters: Casey, an art therapist; Delaney, who works in finance; and the youngest, Darby, who is living my original dream as a veterinarian,” Karen says. “We also have a granddaughter and grandson who bring us endless joy.”


And while she loves all her pets, her beloved Icy gives her the most pleasure.

Karen says, “There are few things more satisfying than riding on a horse who is part of your family. While some of my favorite trips have been equestrian adventures in Spain, Portugal, and Iceland, it’s always nice to come home to Icy.”

We bet Icy feels the same way about seeing Karen.

bottom of page