25 Vets To Watch In Our 25th Year

25 years calls for a list of 25 veterinarians to watch for.

Veterinary Practice News marks its 25th anniversary this year. In observance of that milestone, we set out to identify 25 up-and-coming veterinarians who, through skill, talent and perseverance, are poised to do great things for veterinary medicine. We contacted numerous people in the veterinary community for their suggestions and came across many terrific candidates.

In alphabetical order, we present our 25 to Watch in Our 25th Year.

Chris Adolph, DVM, Southpark Veterinary Hospital, Broken Arrow, Okla.

After earning his DVM in 1996 from Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Chris Adolph owned a successful practice in Broken Arrow. But something was bugging him.

“As we started diagnosing more and more parasites, it became apparent that I needed additional continuing education,” he said in an interview with the National Center for Veterinary Parasitology. “It was during this time that I became acquainted with the leading parasitologists in the country. They have inspired me to take my professional development to the next level.” Now, he’s working toward a Master’s degree in veterinary parasitology under the center’s director, Susan Little, DVM, regents professor of parasitology at Oklahoma State. Adolph’s research has focused on feline tapeworms. He’s considering going for his Ph.D. and board certification.

“I could see a day when I leave general practice for an opportunity to expand the ability to conduct research and educate veterinarians and students, perhaps academia,” he said.

Karen Burns Grogan, DVM, MS, DACPV, Dacula, Ga.

She’s a rare bird, but as a veterinary student at North Carolina State University Karen Grogan was attracted to poultry medicine. She earned her DVM in 2000, then pursued a Master’s degree in avian medicine at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Grogan worked in various positions in the poultry industry, then the stork came calling and she opted to stay closer to the nest, forming a private consulting practice.

Nominated by both the American College of Poultry Veterinarians and the American Association of Avian Pathologists, Grogan was chosen as a member of the AVMA Future Leaders Class of 2012-2013.

“I think we have the most unique profession—we can re-invent ourselves,” she says on her YouTube video profile. “It’s important for all of us to become leaders and represent our profession to the rest of the world.”

Robin Downing, DVM, The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management, Windsor, Colo.

While many veterinarians practice state-of-the-art veterinary medicine, they don’t all practice state of the heart medicine. Robin Downing has been doing both since earning her DVM in 1986 from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

Since she bought Windsor Veterinary Clinic in 1991, Dr. Downing’s award-winning practice has continued to evolve around her core belief that “while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

Dr. Robin Downing is one of Veterinary Practice News' 25 vets to watch in 2013, which marks the magazine's 25th anniversary.

The Downing Center is a referral practice focused on pain relief and management through pharmacology, laser therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and more. The clinic also offers a wide range of physical and rehabilitation therapies, including an underwater treadmill. A past recipient of the Hill’s Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award, Downing’s latest mountain to climb is a Master’s degree in bioethics.

“My vision for the future is a pretty grand one,” she wrote recently on her Facebook page. “Currently, there is no clinically trained, clinically practicing (e.g. not academician) veterinarian who is formally trained in clinical bioethics. I see one of my future roles to be translation of the principles and practices of clinical bioethics to clinical veterinary medicine. … I see my priority to be to change the face of animal pain management, including pain management within the context of palliative/end-of-life care.”

Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, Felsted Veterinary Consultants Inc., Dallas
“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Maybe she’s not the first to voice this aphorism, but Karen Felsted certainly lives it. An unfortunate experience derailed her childhood interest in veterinary medicine, but several years, a marketing degree, a master’s degree and a business career later, Felsted graduated in 1996 from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Upon graduation, she practiced medicine full-time for three years, and during much of that time found herself counseling veterinary practices in accounting, management and human resources. That led to a career in veterinary business management, and she now heads her own firm and serves as treasurer for VetPartners and the CATalyst Council.

She is a board member of the Certified Veterinary Practice Managers, was chief executive of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, which was folded into the AVMA in 2011, and remains a formidable presence in veterinary medicine.

Daniel A. Franklin, DVM, Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Hospital, Hagerstown, Md.

If Daniel Franklin hadn’t had a burning desire to be a veterinarian, he might never have attended the University of the Philippines College of Veterinary Medicine, earning his DVM in 1980. If he hadn’t seen firsthand the living conditions of that country’s people, The Family Flock might not have hatched. But he did, and in 2012 it did, after the idea incubated for several years.

Franklin’s Family Flock Corp. is an independent family business created to provide impoverished families with a chicken coop, a small flock of laying hens, feed, bedding, and instructions for care. He is focusing much of his work in the Dominican Republic but hopes to expand throughout the world, wherever there is a need. Partnering with Church of Christ in Hagerstown and ThreeSixteen Missions, Family Flock last fall built mobile coops and supplied chickens to the first three of many families.

“There’s a lot of people that care about hungry kids. This really gives people the opportunity to share with the world,” Dr. Franklin told a reporter for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail newspaper.

Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVN, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, Mass.

Although she set out to become an equine veterinarian, Lisa Freeman found out that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. Now, with a Ph.D. and board certification in veterinary nutrition to go with her DVM degree, “I can’t imagine any area of medicine being more fun,” she says on her Tufts bio webpage.

In addition to teaching students in all four years of the veterinary curriculum, Freeman works with other veterinarians and clients on proper animal nutrition. Her research interests include nutrition’s role in treating heart disease, obesity and critical care patients. She also mentors budding researchers through the school’s Accelerated Clinical Excellence and Residents’ Enhanced Veterinary Education and Academic Learning programs.

In her spare (!) time, Freeman visits nursing home residents with her therapy dog, and has twice run the Boston Marathon.

Katherine Garrett, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Lexington, Ky.

Dr. Garrett, a 2003 graduate of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, is diagnostic imaging director for Rood & Riddle, one of the foremost private equine veterinary facilities in the United States. She is a frequent presenter at educational meetings of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Garrett became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2012. As vice chairman of the AAEP’s Educational Programs Committee, she is central to planning convention sessions and selecting scientific papers for presentation.

Dan and Rachel Goehl, DVMs, Canton Veterinary Clinic LLC, Canton, Mo.

The Drs. Goehl are graduates of the University of Missouri, Columbia, School of Veterinary Medicine, and operate a five-veterinarian mixed animal practice.

Rachel Goehl is a companion-animal practitioner, while Dan Goehl’s forte is beef cattle medicine and consulting. He is vice president of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants, an association of veterinarians involved in beef cattle medicine, herd health programs, consultation and continuing education. He also is a partner in Professional Beef Services LLC, a research vehicle for animal health products and protocols, and writes a “Cattle Healthline” blog on AgWeb.

Both are active members of the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, and Rachel Goehl is past president of the association’s Northeast District.

Emilia Gordon, DVM, Arbutus West Animal Clinic, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

A special combination of tender-heartedness and grit motivates veterinarians of Emilia Gordon’s caliber.

A 2005 graduate of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, she started out in private practice but soon became medical director for the non-profit Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, a post she held for several years before moving to Vancouver in 2010.

Her unrelenting passion for working with volunteer groups to provide veterinary services for pets of homeless people and others in need prompted Gordon to become active in the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians, who elected her president in 2012.

Jennifer Hatcher, DVM, Hatcher Family Dairy, College Grove, Tenn.

Jennifer Hatcher is a member of her family’s fifth generation to operate their dairy farm, which has been in the Hatcher family since 1831. She’s a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, where her dad, Charlie, preceded her. He is Tennessee’s state veterinarian.

Although they’d been dairy farmers for many years, the Hatcher Family Dairy Store opened on the farm in 2007, and the products are also marketed at local retail outlets. Dr. Hatcher manages the family veterinary practice on the farm. She was the 2012 recipient of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners’ James A. Jarrett Award for Young Leaders.

Jason Johnson, DVM, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, St. Kitts, West Indies

Dr. Johnson is associate professor of theriogenology and a diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists. He earned his DVM from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003, and also completed a residency in food animal theriogenology and a Master’s in virus transmission studying bovine viral diarrhea virus. He is a member of the AVMA Future Leaders class of 2012-2013.

In the course of his work in food animal production and food security in “some of the coolest places in the world,” Johnson related in a You Tube video that he’s “befriended chiefs with spears, knives, bows and arrows, and AR-15s.I’ve been given five goats, and countless numbers of chickens,” he continued. “I’ve been kicked, bitten, scratched, stomped, tipped, slipped, hit, bonked, thrown, defecated upon, urinated upon, run over, run down, thrown down and smitten by animals across the globe. And I love it. Such is our profession.”

Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA, technical services director, Oxbow Animal Health, Murdock, Neb.

A flair for the exotic plus veterinary medical and administrative knowledge makes an interesting package, and he’s named Micah Kohles.

A member of the first AVMA Future Leaders program, Kohles graduated from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and also works in private practice at Nebraska Medical Center in Lincoln. Besides directing technical services at Oxbow, an exotic animal food and supply company, Kohles lectures regularly on exotic animal topics at veterinary schools and conferences in and out of the United States.

Oh, and if your guinea pig Number Advertiser Number should develop a swollen index finger, Kohles will make the time to analyze the case in his “Vet Speak” column on Oxbow’s website. Or catch him at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, where he volunteers.

Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA, Sunset Animal Clinic, Miami, Fla.

Earthy. Frank. Edgy, but with enough conventional foundation that she can flirt with the unconventional: that’s Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA.

Khuly, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and earned her MBA from the Wharton School of Business, started a blog in 2005 that quickly gained popularity and credibility with veterinary professionals and pet owners alike.

Her gift for laying out the facts, along with her opinion (and she’s always got one), in an irresistibly readable style, is educating readers everywhere on the realities of veterinary medical and animal welfare issues.

In addition to her blog, which appears on her website DrPattyKhuly.com, Khuly’s journalism can be read in Veterinary Practice News (in her Reality Check column), the Miami Herald and online at Vetstreet.com. Her day job is veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in Miami.

Kate Knutson, DVM, Pet Crossing Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic, Bloomington, Minn.

The American Animal Hospital Association commands industry respect and defines practitioners and hospitals with the highest medical and ethical standards. In other words, when your hospital is AAHA-accredited, you have arrived.

Kate Knutson, DVM, AAHA president-elect for 2013-14, has arrived in many ways and isn’t about to wear out her welcome. Knutson, a 1996 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, is a nationally known speaker on animal dentistry, and has a referral practice for advanced dental cases.

She wrote AAHA’s dental care guidelines for dogs and cats, and was a board member prior to her election to the president’s chair. She is a past president of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics and chair of the Pet Nutrition Alliance, an international group dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of proper pet nutrition.

Amber Labelle, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVO, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana-Champaign, Ill.

Amber Labelle is an accomplished equine veterinarian. When she’s finished horsing around, Labelle is also a darned good veterinary ophthalmologist. It all started with her DVM from the UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine, followed by an equine internship at BW Furlong and Associates in New Jersey.

While working in an equine ambulatory practice in Long Island, N.Y., for the next two years, Labelle was also completing an ophthalmology internship at the Animal Eye Clinic in Norwalk, Conn. Talk about a balancing act!

Putting the icing on the cake, Labelle in 2010 completed a residency and master’s program in comparative veterinary ophthalmology at the University of Illinois, where she now teaches. Her heart still has plenty of room for horses, too. An active member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, she has numerous convention presentations to her credit, including an ophthalmology dry lab last December.

Deborah Murray, DVM, New Fashion Pork, Jackson, Minn.

Swine veterinarians for corporate farms tread a slippery slope: They are responsible for millions of dollars worth of pork on the hoof, and are under constant scrutiny by animal rights activists. Yet Deborah Murray says she is doing her “dream job,” working with a production management team responsible for producing 1.2 million market hogs per year.

Murray, who earned her DVM and the Swine Certificate from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006, was named 2012 Young Swine Veterinarian of the Year by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. She has spoken at the Leman Swine Conference, the AASV annual meeting and Iowa State University Swine Disease Conference.

Jennifer Olson, DVM, Alamo Feline Health Center, San Antonio

Of all the things Dr. Olson’s father and mentor undoubtedly taught her, she’s got the one that will best serve her in any direction her career turns: “You get in the business because you like science, you like animals, but really you are taking care of people, and he taught me that,” she recently told Veterinary Practice News. Read the Profiles in Medicine article "Jennifer Olson, DVM: Following Family Tradition" here.

Olson is her family’s fourth-generation graduate from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, earning her DVM in 2009—100 years after her grandfather earned his.

She grew up working with her dad, Jim, a feline practitioner in Castle Rock, Colo. Following a post-graduate internship in Denver, Dr. Olson practiced in Colorado Springs and Boston before deciding to also become a cat specialist. In August, she landed at Dr. Gary Norsworthy’s Alamo Feline Health Center, where “she has been enthusiastically received by clients, patients and staff,” he said. 

Olson is a co-author of a soon-to-be-published major paper on chronic small bowel disease in cats, Norsworthy said. She is the first author of a case report on a paraneoplastic syndrome in a cat, and is working on a paper on the safety of benazepril in cats.

“Her goals include continuing to practice feline medicine, authoring more papers for the benefit of cats, and lecturing in veterinary meetings,” Norsworthy said. “Her drive and vision for the future will carry her to heights few have achieved in feline medicine.”

Jeff Nichol, DVM, Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital, Albuquerque, N.M.

Veterinary behavior specialist Jeff Nichol, DVM, began bonding with animals at the age of 8 and never looked back. A 1974 graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, he heeded the call of behavior medicine in the late ’70s and has devoted much of his career to teaching clients to build or repair their own pet-family relationships.

A past president of the Albuquerque Veterinary Association, he has written three books. Dr. Nichol’s genuine passion for his work is captured on his website video, in which he states:

“It’s really quite rare that people re-home a pet that is sick physically, but they do it for behavioral reasons, and almost none of that is necessary. It’s important work. It really does save lives. In all my years in medicine, I’ve helped a lot of pets. I’m helping more of them in behavior, and their families, too.”

Andy Roark, DVM, MS, Cleveland Park Animal Hospital, Greenville, S.C.

Less than five years after earning his DVM from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008, Andy Roark is already in demand for veterinary business management and personnel lectures, which he’s delivered to national veterinary meetings from coast to coast.

As a veterinary student, Roark’s management savvy secured him the distinction of becoming one of the first national presidents of the Veterinary Business Management Association.

Since then, he’s become a regular contributor to a number of veterinary publications and has been named to advisory boards for the North American Veterinary Conference and the American Animal Hospital Association. He founded a consulting firm, Tall Oaks Enterprises LLC, and is a member of the VetPartners consulting group.

Gifted as he is at communicating with two-legged creatures, Roark stays grounded in the profession as an associate at a five-vet, full-service veterinary practice in Greenville.

Jessica Rychel DVM, cVMA, CCRP, Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency Hospital, Fort Collins, Colo.

Nothing short of “miraculous” describes Dr. Rychel’s art and science of healing animals that have lost control of their moving parts. Videos, peer-reviewed writings and accolades attest to a veterinarian with uncommon perseverance and love for her patients.

A credentialed veterinary acupuncturist and certified canine rehabilitation practitioner, Rychel graduated from the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She was the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association’s “Rising Star” in 2012, and her work with a paralyzed Saint Bernard named Bruno earned her the Human Award from Colorado’s Animal Heroes.

Watching Rychel on video guide animals to find what they’ve lost is human-animal bonding at its purest.

Jodi Westropp, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM, University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, Davis, Calif.

In a world of urinary calculi, Jodi Westropp has blazed a trail toward understanding, preventing and battling this disease. As director of the G.V. Ling Urinary Stone Analysis Laboratory, she studies lower urinary tract disorders of cats and dogs.

A graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Westropp has been the lead or co-author of 17 urinary research studies and is a nationally respected veterinary conference speaker. Her post-doctoral training addressed inflammatory and neurological influences on bladder infections in cats.

Westropp’s current projects include investigation of an alternative antibiotic treatment protocol for uncomplicated bladder infections in dogs, and recurrence of urate urolithiasis in Dalmatians.

Michael J. White, second year student, Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan, Kan.

Animal welfare and rights is a topic that continues to generate heat. It would be hard to find a more balanced, reasoned view of the issues than White’s winning essay for the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics. Asked to expound “On the Question of ‘Human Exceptionalism’ and Its Bearing upon Veterinary Medical Ethics,” White bested 87 other entries and waxed eloquently on the importance to veterinarians of the animal rights movement:

“Some change is inevitable. For this reason, we must become involved with pet owners and work to assure that such legal change does not put veterinary medicine out of business by saddling it with enormous insurance costs of the sort that have plagued human medicine. As veterinarians, we are privileged in that we can actually do much good for those creatures that we count on as friends and as providers of food, fiber, and pleasure, as well as for those that give their lives for science.

“But,” he added, “respect and appreciation do not imply equality, and we must remember that there is a significant difference between a human and an animal. To forget this distinction would greatly undermine our role as veterinarians in society and challenge the many wonderful characteristics that make our profession so unique.”

Lisa A. Willis, DVM, Mid- Texas Veterinary Associates PC, Gustine, Texas

If you’re going to practice in the heart of cowboy country, you’d darn better have the facilities to work on rodeo bucking bulls. Lisa Willis does, and her large-animal referral clinic also is the official veterinary facility of the American Bucking Horse Registry.

Established in 2009, Mid- Texas Veterinary Associates provides ambulatory veterinary services in Central Texas for emergencies, preventive care and reproduction. Future expansion plans are to offer surgery, internal medicine and advanced diagnostic imaging. Need semen collected onsite from your whitetail deer bucks? No problem!

After earning her DVM from Auburn University, Dr. Willis completed two years of graduate studies in equine reproduction at Texas A&M University in College Station, and also worked two years at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. In 2009, she was chosen for the James A. Jarrett Award for Young Leaders by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners

Angela L. Witzel Lusby, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVN, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville

Angela Witzel is on a mission to reform fat cats and their keepers.

She’s an assistant clinical professor of nutrition who has co-authored more than 15 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters, many of which deal with cats, corpulence and resulting health problems. After earning her DVM in 2004 at Tennessee’s veterinary college, she worked in private practice before returning for a residency in nutrition and subsequently earned a Ph.D.

On an academic note, Dr. Witzel’s research interests are satiety, adipose hormones and critical care nutrition.

Ashley M. Zehnder, DVM, Dipl. ABVP (Avian), exotic animal practitioner, Stanford, Calif.

To hear Ashley Zehnder tell it, as she does on a well-crafted Web page, “I was seeing complicated cases and feeling helpless when our scientific knowledge could not provide the answers we needed to treat our patients with the care they deserve. Now, during my time at Stanford University, I am learning techniques to be able to answer the important scientific questions in our field.”

To equip herself for this formidable aim, Zehnder is working toward a Ph.D. in cancer biology at Stanford University, while continuing a mobile avian and exotic animal veterinary practice. “Thirteen years ago, I got into the field of companion exotics because I felt that these animals deserve the kind of quality care that other, more traditional pets, routinely receive,” she said.

Zehnder earned her DVM from the University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine, did an internship at the Animal Medical Center and a residency in companion avian and pet exotics at UC Davis Veterinary School. In her short career, she has been lead author or co-author on nine publications and a presenter on exotic animal topics at scientific meetings.


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