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Speakers

Discover the incredible lineup that spoke at the event.

Stacy Anderson, DVM, MVSc, PhD, DACVS-LA

Lincoln Memorial University-College of Veterinary Medicine | Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Stacy (Thacker) Anderson serves as dean of LMU’s College of Veterinary Medicine (LMU-CVM) stepping into the role August 2020. Anderson joined the LMU-CVM in 2015 and has served as associate dean for academic affairs, the director of Large Animal Clinical Skills and associate professor of Large Animal Surgery. Since joining LMU-CVM, Anderson has invested herself fully into the development of curriculum to produce confident, competent day-one ready graduates. Anderson has a passion for teaching, which ultimately drew her to LMU-CVM where the student-centered model of education closely aligned with her previous experiences.

Brenda Andresen

Stephens & Associates Advertising, Inc | Chief Strategy Officer

An industry connector, collaborator, and confidante, Brenda has built her career on the power of mutually beneficial relationships and a commitment to forward thinking. With a history of leadership roles spanning the client, agency, non-profit and sales sides of marketing and communications Brenda brings a unique, multi-dimensional approach to the veterinary profession. Today, she heads account, content, and creative teams at Stephens & Associates Advertising and provides leadership, development, and strategic direction to the S&A team and agency clients.

Doug Aspros, DVM

Veterinary Practice Partners | Chief Veterinary Officer
Veterinary Innovation Council | Chairman

Douglas G. Aspros, DVM is the Chief Veterinary Officer for Veterinary Practice Partners, where they work to enhance the value of veterinary ownership to the profession and the public.

As a companion animal veterinarian, Dr. Aspros has been an owner of two AAHA-accredited practices and the managing partner of an ER in New York. Dr. Aspros served as the 2012-13 President of AVMA and is a Past-President of the NYSVMS. He has worked on behalf of the profession in diverse leadership roles in education, public health, nutrition, licensure and credentialing and risk management.

He has been a determined voice for diversity and in promoting women into leadership roles in veterinary medicine including practice ownership, and is a founding board member of the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Diversity Initiative (WVLDI).

Jules Benson, BVSc, MRCVS

Nationwide Pet Insurance | Chief Veterinary Officer

Dr. Jules Benson is an experienced executive in the animal health field. Before coming to Nationwide’s pet health insurance unit, he was on the start-up team of a pet health company, and then assisted other veterinary and medical companies as an executive specializing in healthcare marketing and strategy.

A licensed veterinarian, Dr. Benson is a graduate of the University of Liverpool’s school of veterinary medicine. He has been active in conservation efforts in Africa, and he worked in clinical practice before moving into the pet health industry as a leader.

He can speak with insight and experience on animal health industry trends, start-ups, innovation and strategic planning and, of course, on veterinary medicine.

Ainsley Bone, DVM, MBA

Nestle Purina PetCare | Senior Veterinary Communications Manager, Professional Engagement Team

As a Senior Veterinary Communications Manager for Purina, Ainsley plays a unique role in bridging the veterinary profession and the pet nutrition industry. In her daily work, she is empowered to develop win-win solutions across a network of expanding initiatives in the veterinary nutrition and innovation space. These dynamic and collaborative professional environments brings out her best, and she enjoys contributing to challenging meaningful work that benefits so many pets and all the people who love them. On weekends, you’ll find her out walking the beach with her family, covering a relief shift at Shoreline Veterinary Hospital, or practicing the newly acquired skills of baking and guitar.

Aletha Carson, DVM

Mars Kinship | Senior Manager, Data and Clinical Studies

Aletha Carson, DVM, is a senior manager of data and clinical studies at Kinship. Passionately curious, Dr. Carson graduated from Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She envisions technology as a way to help solve some of the hard problems facing veterinarians in practice today and enjoys working at the junction of new technologies and veterinary medicine. Grounded by years of clinical practice. Carson enjoys sorting out the practical applications of big data and finding solutions for what matters to “me and my pets”–namely, how to provide top-notch, technology guided care with a compassionate human touch. When not working she can be found with her human family, dog Sandy or spending time with her 9 horses.

Ying Chen

Covetrus | Chief Customer Officer

Ying Chen is Chief Customer Officer, Product at Covetrus. She leads strategy and product development focused on empowering animal health practitioners.

Ying’s background includes 20+ years in the B2B software industry delivering award-winning product solutions. Most recently she was a General Manager and Vice President at HubSpot, where she helped deliver effective customer experiences through technology contributing to a platform that serves over 114,000 organizations across 120 countries. Chen previously served as Chief Product Officer at Luminoso, an MIT Media Lab spin-off that applies modern machine learning to help the world’s most recognizable brands develop effective voice of the customer programs. Chen holds a Bachelor of Science from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Boston University.

Mark L. Cushing, JD

Animal Policy Group, LLC | Founding Partner

A long-time political strategist, lobbyist, corporate executive and former litigator, Mark focuses his advocacy practice on providing high-level strategic advice, state and federal lobbying, and consulting services to clients with needs at any level of government, and key trade/industry associations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He maintains offices in Portland, OR; Scottsdale, AZ and Los Angeles, CA.

Mark is the Founder and CEO of the Animal Policy Group, LLC. Since 2004 he has specialized in animal health, animal welfare, veterinary and veterinary educational issues, developing a cutting-edge practice across these sectors. He also serves as Trustees Counsel for Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN and Policy Advisor to the Center for Animal Health in Appalachia.

Mark is a frequent speaker at veterinary medicine and other animal policy-related conferences. He has served as an adjunct professor at the LMU Duncan School of Law, the Lewis & Clark Law School animal Law program in Portland, Oregon, and visiting lecturer at the University of Oregon School of Law. Mark is an honors graduate with distinction from Stanford University and the Willamette University College of Law.

Most recently, Mark is the author of Pet Nation, a book released by Penguin Random House. Pet Nation tells the story of this seismic shift and the economic, media, legal, political, and social dramas springing from this cultural transformation.

Sarah Cutler Tew, PhD

IDEXX Laboratories | Senior Manager, Medical Outreach, CAG Medical Organization

Dr. Cutler Tew leads the Companion Animal Medical Outreach team at IDEXX focusing on education, advocacy, and professional and industry partnerships to advance standards of care. Prior to joining IDEXX in 2018 she spent 12 years in the animal health industry with Merial and Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health developing and commercializing global companion animal products as the Director of Innovation for US Pet Healthcare and Director of Business Operations Initiatives. She earned her BS in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and holds an MS and PhD in Bioengineering from the joint Georgia Tech and Emory Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience.

John Dillon

GuardianVets | Founder & CEO

John grew up in Evanston, IL and studied Business at the University of Illinois- Urbana Champaign. After graduating, he was a former project finance/investment banking professional and spent close to 6 years out of Singapore and then LA working in various roles before formally taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. The mission of GuardianVets is to provide innovative communication solutions for veterinary professionals to help them deliver convenient, compassionate and continuous care to their clients and patients. GuardianVets allows veterinary practices to offer after-hours care for their clients. Their service helps veterinary practices increase revenue through new appointments, lower staff cost, optimize appointment demand as well as increase client retention.

Aimee Gilbreath

PetSmart Charities and PetSmart Charities of Canada | President

A seasoned leader in both non-profit and private-sector organizations with extensive experience in a range of industries spanning biotech, consumer goods and philanthropy, Aimee has a proven track record of driving organizations to achieve growth and success.

Growing up in Phoenix, AZ, Aimee had practically every pet possible (horses, goat, dog, cat, rabbit, snake, rat). When She moved to Los Angeles it was the first time she didn’t have a pet in her household. To fill the void, she looked for pet related volunteer opportunities which fatefully led her into the world of animal welfare, shelters, and rescue groups. She fell in love with the stocky, blocky headed dogs most people call pit bulls, adopted one, and got inspired to help on a larger scale.

Today, Aimee is proud to serve as president of PetSmart Charities, which is not only the leading funder of animal welfare but also an organization committed to supporting pets and those who love them. PetSmart Charities believes it’s more important than ever to support the whole family—which, for over half of the population, includes pets.

Prior to her role at PetSmart Charities, Aimee served as the executive director of the Found Animals Foundation, Inc., a non-profit supporting pet owners and animal welfare organizations with a mission dedicated to saving pets and enriching lives, where spearheaded activities for the foundation’s 1,000+ B2B clients and 5 million B2C customers nationwide.

Candise Goodwin

Petco | Rx Business Leader

Candise is a passionate pet healthcare executive with expertise in e-commerce, pet medications, unique veterinary care models and using emerging digital technologies to exceed ever changing pet owner expectations. Her background includes working for and with some of the most exciting companies in the animal health space to help unlock high profile growth initiatives that expand market access for pets and the people who love them. She is passionate about uncovering new ways of using technology to remove friction for veterinarians and pet owners that lead to happier people and healthier pets.

She has deep roots in the animal health space and has been lucky enough to see industry transformation happen from all angles. She started her career “carrying a bag” for a major manufacturer and quickly moved up to manage new and emerging groups including buying groups, corporate consolidators, and fledgling online pharmacy platforms. As these platforms matured, she joined one of the top companies to expand prescription management to veterinary corporate groups by focusing on shifting omnichannel consumer preferences. She went on to work for one of the fastest growing veterinary groups in the country focusing on high profile digital growth initiatives as they expanded into the retail market. In her latest role at one of the top Omni channel Pet specialty retailers, her mission has been to deliver a cohesive bespoke pharmacy customer experience across all Pet care centers, Vet service providers and ecommerce channels through innovative technology solutions.

She has previously sat on the Veterinary Innovation Council board and worked in Washington DC and nationally to advocate for change that would improve access to care for pet owners.

Eleanor Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP

College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University | Professor Emerita & Dean Emerita
The Animal Policy Group | Senior Advisor & Consultant

Dr. Eleanor M. Green held the Carl B. King deanship of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).

She received a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Animal Science from the University of Florida and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Auburn University. She established a veterinary practice in Mississippi as partner/owner. She became a founding faculty member of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University.

Her academic appointments have included: equine faculty member at Middlebush Equine Center at the University of Missouri; head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and director of the large animal hospital at the University of Tennessee; chair of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and the Chief of Staff of the large animal hospital at the University of Florida

She previously served as president of four national organizations: the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians (AAVC) and, most recently, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).
Her awards include: 2004 Award of Distinction from the University of Florida College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2011 Wilford S. Bailey Distinguished Alumni Award from Auburn University, 2012 Women‘s Progress Award for Administration, induction into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2013, and 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award for Administration at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Green has a special interest in the future of veterinary medicine and the innovations that will help ensure a thriving profession.

Jim Harris

Strategic Advantage | Disruptive Innovator

Jim Harris is a one of North America’s foremost thinkers on disruptive innovation speaking internationally at more than 70 conferences a year (virtually and in person). Association magazine ranked him as one of North America’s top ten speakers. Jim also leads strategic planning sessions with executive teams.

His clients include Barclays Bank, Canon, IBM, SAP, Munich Re, the Top 200 CIOs of India, the UK Cabinet Office, Swiss Re, Walmart, Zurich Insurance & most importantly VIS!

Jim’s last book, Blindsided!, is published in 80 countries worldwide and is a #1 international bestseller. Soundview Executive Summaries, selected Blindsided! as one of the best business books of the year sending a summary to 80,000 executives globally. The Miami Herald calls Blindsided! “Brilliant stuff!”

David Haworth, DVM, PhD

Vidium Animal Health | President

David Haworth, DVM, PhD is president and co-founder of Vidium Animal Health, a start-up genomic diagnostics company founded inside the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). He is also a strategic consultant to companies and investors in the animal health and wellness space. He is the former President of PetSmart Charities in the US and Canada, the largest funder of animal welfare in North America and former President & CEO of Morris Animal Foundation, the largest non-profit funder of veterinary medical research in the world. He was also a Director of Global Alliances within the Business Development group at Pfizer Animal Health (now Zoetis, Inc.), and before that a Director in Pfizer Animal Health’s Research & Development division. Prior to joining Pfizer Animal Health, he was an associate veterinarian at a small animal and emergency clinic in Washington State. Dr. Haworth received his bachelor of science in biology from the College of William & Mary and his doctor of veterinary medicine and doctorate of philosophy from Colorado State University. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. David, his wife Claudia and their Golden Retriever Bridger split their time between Denver, Phoenix and Bozeman and occasionally get to see their two grown children.

Scott Ijaz

VetGuardian | Chief Revenue Officer

Scott Ijaz focuses on revenue, customer relations, marketing, and business development for VetGuardian. He strives to enable veterinary professionals through novel, technology solutions. With master degrees from Johns Hopkins University (Biotechnology Entrepreneurship) and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (Bioethics), he brings an understanding about the the interactions between science, regulatory affairs, business, and technology to the Company.

VetGuadian company presentations at the Animal Health Investment Series, VetPartners, Purina PetCare Innovation Prize. Poster presentations at multiple bioethics human health conferences.

Jason Johnson, DVM, MS, DACT

IDEXX | Vice President & Global Chief Medical Officer

Jason is a proven leader who focuses his energy on igniting the veterinary space to envision the bold future we can create together. He is most satisfied creating platforms that perpetually give back to people and animals. Period. Passionate, credible, internationally recognized leader with 17+ years of leading change with within the veterinary space he was the co-founder/VP&Dean of LMU-College of Veterinary medicine, the 30th college of veterinary medicine in the USA, founder of the Center for Animal and Human Health in Appalachia, among other initiatives. His career has found him as a boarded veterinarian, private practitioner, practice owner, professor, VP & Dean, consultant, researcher, multiple board member & serial founder. Recognized in veterinary cosmos most notably as a visionary innovator, collaborator, expert communicator and team builder, and change agent. Skilled at inspiring teams toward a shared vision and a preferred future driven by sound business decisions and incessant evaluation of metrics. He has conducted international veterinary work across 7 countries and believes it is our distinct privilege and responsibility to elevate animal health around the globe.

Barbara Kellerman, BA, MA, M.Phil, Ph.D

Kennedy School, Harvard University | James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership

Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is the Founding Executive Director of the School’s Center for Public Leadership. And from 2003 to 2006 she served as the Center’s Research Director. Kellerman has held professorships at Fordham, Tufts, Fairleigh Dickinson, George Washington, Uppsala, and at both Dartmouth and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. She also served as Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at Fairleigh Dickinson, and as Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership at the University of Maryland.

Kellerman received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and her M.A. (in Russian and East European Studies), M.Phil., and Ph.D. (in Political Science) degrees from Yale University. She was awarded a Danforth Fellowship and three Fulbright fellowships. At Uppsala (1996-97), she held the Fulbright Chair in American Studies. Kellerman was cofounder of the International Leadership Association (ILA), and is author and editor of many books including her next book – The Enablers: How Team Trump Flunked the Pandemic and Failed America – will be published in 2021, also by Cambridge. Kellerman regularly posts digital articles at barbarakellerman.com.

Chris Kelly

Veterinary Advantage Magazine | Editor-in-Chief

Chris Kelly currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Veterinary Advantage Magazine, an NAVC business publication. He also serves as the Managing Partner for Antelligence, LLC an animal health industry business news, insights and educational services company which publishes the Fountain Report and conducts animal health education for people new to the industry.

Chris and his team became a part of the NAVC in January of 2017, when they purchased Veterinary Advantage Magazine and its related products, which he founded in 2008. Chris took on the role of group publisher, managing the NAVC’s print and digital titles. He and his team successfully launched Today’s Veterinary Business in August of 2017, the leading business publication in the veterinary space. In addition, he and his team brought NAVC’s E-Commerce Summit to the market in 2018, an event that brings together the industry’s e-commerce players, corporate practices, independent practices, manufacturers, distributors and purchasing groups.

Prior to starting Veterinary Advantage Magazine, Chris spent 25 years in healthcare, most recently as the president, publisher and cofounder of MDSI, a healthcare publishing firm based in Atlanta, GA.

Deb Leon

whiskerDocs | CEO & Founder

Deb Leon is the CEO and co-founder of whiskerDocs, a tech-enabled, enterprise level provider of decision support resources for pet issues 24 hours a day. whiskerDocs currently serves over 6 million pets with instant, on-demand access to veterinary experts for pet owners in the United States and Canada. In Q3, 2021, whiskerDocs will be adding support for avian pets to its current triage services for dogs and cats.

whiskerDocs provides a 24/7 pet help line and online self-service tools such as weighted decision trees that support pet owners with the decisions they face every day. In addition, whiskerDocs delivers contact center support to its client partners with 24/7 access and online tools that extend the reach of veterinary solution providers.
Prior to launching whiskerDocs, Ms. Leon was the CEO and founder of Health Contact Partners, a 24/7 health services contact center providing telehealth and telemonitoring services to its client partners. At its peak, HCP provided services to over 7 million individuals. Clients included large payor groups, self-insured employers, third party administrators, affinity groups and more. HCP was a URAC and NCQA accredited health services call center providing real time access to Registered Nurses, telemonitoring specialists and its member advocacy team supporting healthcare navigation.

Prior to this, Ms. Leon was the Call Center Director for CorSolutions Medical, a leading provider of telehealth solutions for high acuity and population health management solutions, including tele-triage, telephonic disease management and wellness programs.

“whiskerDocs brings solutions to pet parents that offer affordability, access and convenience. We are continually adapting our outreach and services based on findings from our nearly 250,000 interactions. Our over-arching mission is to create smarter, more confident, and more engged pet parents by providing instant access to the expertise that they need, when they need it most.” Deb Leon, CEO, whiskerDocs

Patent: Ms. Leon also holds a patent, along with two other inventors on the whiskerDocs team, on their triage protocols and methods, “Animal Health Decision Support Process and Methods”, allowed in February, 2020.

Bob Lester, DVM

WellHaven Pet Health | Chief Medical Officer, Co-Founder, Board of Directors

Dr. Lester is a graduate of Oregon State and Washington State Universities, and a graduate of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Leadership Academy.

He spent his early career as a small town mixed animal practice owner before joining the founding leadership team at Banfield Pet Hospital. At Banfield he held positions in medicine, operations, franchising, human resources and professional relations. After a rewarding twenty-year career at Banfield/Mars Inc. he left as Vice President of Professional Relations. He spent the last four years on the founding team at the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine where he served as Assistant Dean. He continues to lead the LMU-CVM practice management course. Dr. Lester and colleagues most recently founded founded WellHaven Pet Health, a veterinary lead group practice that empowers veterinary leaders through personal and professional development. WellHaven Pet Health both buys and builds quality companion animal primary care practices.

In addition Dr. Lester serves on a variety of professional, university, and college committees, boards and task forces including as a two time gubernatorial appointee to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board which he chaired from 2013- 2015, a state delegate to the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, a site team member for the Council on Education, consultant for Guidepoint Global, board member and Treasurer at Pet Peace of Mind a non-profit which keeps hospice patients together with their pets through end of life, and a board member for the North American Veterinary Community.

His family includes his wife Crystal, two daughters McKenzie and Paige, and two Yorkie’s Jessie and Woody.

James Lloyd, DVM, PhD

College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida | Senior Consultant and Dean Emeritus

Dr. James W. Lloyd received a DVM at Michigan State University in 1981 and a PhD in Agricultural Economics and Operations Research from Michigan State University in 1989.

  • PhD, Agricultural Economics & Operations Research, Michigan State University, 1989
  • DVM, Michigan State University, 1981
  • BS, Fisheries & Wildlife, Michigan State University, 1978
  • LGVMA Leadership Award, 2013
  • President’s Honor Roll, Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
  • Senior Fellow, Outreach and Engagement, Michigan State University, 2005-13
  • Certificate of Appreciation, Assoc. of Vet. Practice Management Consultants and Advisors, 2004
  • Norden Teacher of the Year Award Finalist, College of Veterinary Medicine, 2003
  • Creativity in Teaching Award, Merck Agvet, 1995
  • State Team Award, Milk Quality Assurance Program, Michigan State University Extension, 1993
  • Commendation (for Extension activity), Michigan Cattlemen’s Association, 1992
  • The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, Michigan State University, inducted 1985
  • Phi Zeta, Honorary Veterinary Society, Michigan State University, inducted 1981
  • Butler Award, voted by peers as “most likely to succeed” in large animal veterinary medicine, 1981
  • Honors College, Michigan State University, 1975 to 1977

Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA

Petco | Chief Veterinarian

Fueled by her passion for making a positive impact in pets’ lives, Dr. Whitney Miller serves as Petco’s Chief Veterinarian. She oversees the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare; is the lead veterinary subject matter expert advising the executive team; provides strategic direction and medical management for Petco’s growth in veterinary services; and provides cross-functional support across the company to marketing, communications, legal, merchandising, pet services, and more.

In addition, Dr. Miller is a member of the Petco Pet Wellness Council (PPWC), an independent coalition of leading experts in veterinary science and animal care that serve as an external source of unbiased advice and counsel to Petco on a range of topics across the pet care industry. The PPWC also guides the development and aggregation of credible pet care science to educate professionals and all who care about pets. Dr. Miller is also a Board Member for the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative, empowering women to seek and achieve leadership roles in all areas of professional veterinary activity.

Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Miller has spent time in emergency and general companion animal veterinary practice, worked in pharmacovigilance reporting for Zoetis, and spent time in federal government relations for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – advocating on animal welfare issues. Dr. Miller received her DVM and MBA degrees from Colorado State University and has been board certified in Preventive Medicine since 2018. Dr. Miller continues to practice companion animal medicine every chance she gets.

Katy Nelson, DVM

Chewy Health | Senior Veterinary Relations Manager

Dr. Katy Nelson is the Senior Veterinarian at Chewy where she is responsible for developing and leading Chewy’s telehealth platform, Connect with a Vet. She has practiced GP and ER medicine for over 20 years, and earned her veterinary degree from Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She now lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, their sports-loving son and daughter, their rambunctious rescue dogs, Mookie Betts, a lovable Labradoodle, and Eddie Underbite, a Shih Tzu/Bichon mix. Nationally, Dr. Katy’s been featured on the TODAY Show, Nat Geo Wild, Fox & Friends, among countless radio stations and online news sources, and she even hosted her own show “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on WJLA ABC News in Washington, D.C. for eight years.

Kerry O'Hara, PhD

APG | O'Hara Research & Analytics | Founder & President

Kerry O’Hara has proven expertise exploring the key sectors in the companion animal landscape: pet owners, veterinarians, vet hospitals, benefits decision-makers – using their voices and behaviors as guideposts. She has nearly 30 years of applied thought leadership, consumer insights and analytics experience creating content and strategies leading Fortune 100 businesses like Nationwide, HP, Disney, and Microsoft. This expertise requires a keen ability to understand the complexities of organizations and B2B/B2C landscapes to conceptualize and effectively design insights-driven strategies grounded in a fact base.

Lauren Olavessen, DVM

PetIQ | Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Olavessen brings 20 years of experience in the veterinary profession, both as a practicing veterinarian and a leader within the industry. Most recently, she served as senior medical director of IDEXX’s Companion Animal Medical Organization where she led a team of veterinarians and professionals in medical affairs, medical outreach and medical research support. She began her career as a practicing veterinarian focused on small animal medicine in 2002 until transitioning to industry in 2007. Dr. Olavessen holds a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, serves on the board of directors for the Veterinary Leadership Institute (VLI) and has been recognized with several educational and professional awards.

Tessa Plagis, DVM, MSc

St. Anna Advies | Veterinarian & Communications Advisor

Tessa (Angelina) Plagis, DVM, MSc was born and raised in the beautiful South Africa, where she grew her love for animals, people and adventure. Her first adventure started when she moved to the Netherlands to study companion animal veterinary medicine at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, where her eyes were really opened to the diversity of opportunities within the veterinary world. Since graduating, Tessa worked in numerous veterinary practices in London and part-time as a Technical Policy Assistant at the National Office of Animal Health. She also co-authored the ‘Cookbook for Clienthusiasm’ with Roeland Wessels in 2019. Thereafter she made the switch from practice to consultancy.

At St. Anna Advice, Tessa is responsible for the Veterinary DialogueTrainer. She creates simulations based on real-life situations in practice and how to deal with them. The simulations are based on evidence-based communication techniques and allows players to practice their communication skills in a safe environment. The more veterinary professionals play the more empowered they feel to tackle difficult conversations in practice with better outcomes. She also enjoys training young veterinary professionals on communication skills, helping them to explore just how talented, special and valuable they are.

Tessa’s latest adventure has been renovating an old house in the beautiful Nijmegen with her wonderful partner, Siebren Wezenberg. They have worked hard together to turn a house into a home for their one-of-a-kind British Shorthair, Hazel.

Matt Russell

IDEXX | Senior Director, Software Business Development & Partnerships

Matt Russell has enjoyed over two decades in the animal health industry including several years as a veterinary technician and practice manager. In 2001, Matt started MAST Technology, a company focused on developing integrated radiology solutions for small animal and equine practices. MAST was later acquired by a large telemedicine firm, VDIC. Several years later, Matt launched his second startup, Odyssey Software, with the development of the Diagnostic Imaging Assistant (DIA). This client education solution was used in thousands of veterinary practices worldwide and was available in three languages. Following their acquisition of Odyssey, Matt directed the technology group for Patterson Veterinary until 2014. During this period, he led the development of ePetHealth which combined DIA and ePetRecords to form a state-of-the-art database marketing platform that was implemented by thousands of veterinary practices. After leaving Patterson, Matt launched JSI Group (rVetLink) and DataPoint in 2015 and 2016 respectively. These startups were acquired by IDEXX in 2017 where Matt is now a Senior Director of Software Business Development & Partnerships.

Heidi Sirota

Nationwide Pet Insurance | Chief Pet Officer

As Chief Pet Officer for the largest provider of pet health insurance in the U.S., Heidi Sirota leads the full scope of the pet insurance business for Nationwide. Through the lens of pet owners, veterinarians, employers, business partners, and associates, Heidi leads the coordinated execution of strategies to fulfill Nationwide’s mission and vision of protecting America’s pets with extraordinary care. Heidi is responsible for the enhancement and expansion of the Nationwide pet insurance product portfolio; continuous improvement of the customer experience through operational efficiency and technological enhancements; and driving growth through B2C, B2B sales channels and strategic partnerships.

She joined Nationwide in 2018 as vice president of marketing for the Retirement Plans business and led an expansion of its capabilities and markets.

Before joining Nationwide, Heidi transformed consumer experiences in health care. As UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Bank vice president of marketing, she pioneered the retailization of health savings accounts, and as a marketing executive at Aetna and ConnectiCare she introduced new, engaging ways for consumers to shop for health insurance and get care.

Heidi started her career in commercial bank operations, then moved into investment and insurance marketing leadership at The Phoenix Companies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Loyola Marymount University and completed executive education from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Heidi sits on the Board of Trustees of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and she’s the executive sponsor of Nationwide’s Pet Associate Resource Group.

Thomas Schwarztrauber

Nestlé Purina North America | Director of Category Leadership & Strategic Planning

Tom is a Sade fan who also does global category management & corporate strategic planning (all in that order). His varied career started in the early 90s, where he specialized in health care & workers compensation finance, then transitioned in the mid-nineties commercial lending and category management for GMAC, where he managed all car dealerships in Arkansas and Mississippi. In the early 2000s he joined Nestle Purina, where for the last ten years in particular he has focused on the rapid changes occurring in shopper behavior, the omnichannel retail landscape, macroeconomic shifts, and technological advancements. He has been keynote speaker at numerous conferences, with the subject almost always being the future of retail. Tom currently works with C-Suite executives spanning the globe, including retailers and private equity firms throughout Australia & New Zealand, continental Europe, and in particular, pet specialist & eComm retailers within the U.S. and Canada.

David Sprinkle

Packaged Facts & MarketResearch.com Publishing | Research Director

David Sprinkle is the research director for Packaged Facts, which publishes syndicated research on U.S. consumer markets, including industry-leading reports on the pet industry. He manages Packaged Facts’ consumer survey and webinar programs, contributes a monthly consumer insights column to Petfood Industry, and provides articles or interviews to pet industry media such as PETS International, PFI (Pet Food Institute) Monitor, and SupplySide Animal Nutrition Insights. He regularly gives conference presentations at APPA’a Global Pet Expo and Petfood Industry’s Petfood Forum/Innovation Workshop., and presents at industry events such as VMX, VetHealth Global, China International Pet Show, National Pet Industry Trade Show (Canada), and PIJAC Pet Industry Leadership Conference.

Richard Susskind, OBE

Professional Futurist

Professor Richard Susskind OBE has worked for 40 years on the impact of technology on the future of professional work. He has written ten books, including theglobal bestseller, The Future of the Professions (with D. Susskind, Oxford University Press, 2015), a Financial Times Book of the Year. Richard’s work has beentranslated into 18 languages and he has been invited to speak in over 60 countries. He is the world’s most cited author on the future of legal services. He is Chair ofthe Advisory Board of the Oxford Internet Institute and, since 1998, has been Technology Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. A Scots lawyerby background, he wrote his doctorate in the 1980s at Oxford University on artificial intelligence.

Robert J. Trimble, DVM

Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy | Executive Director

  • Executive Director of the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy
  • Co-founder @ Fuzzy Pet Health
  • Exponential org design speaker & consultant
  • Passionate about modern team management and leadership
  • Extensive experience in scaling mobile veterinary healthcare teams.Entrepreneurship

Jennifer Welser, DVM, DACVO

Mars Veterinary Health | Chief Medical & Quality Officer

Dr. Jennifer Welser is the global Chief Medical Officer at Mars Veterinary Health. Prior to receiving her DVM from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996, she completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont. Following veterinary school, Dr. Welser went onto a small animal rotating internship at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and then became board certified in ophthalmology following her residency in a private practice setting and comparative program with University of Illinois, Chicago. Formerly, Jennifer was a private practice owner, multispecialty practice medical director and Chief Medical Officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners. Her current role at Mars Veterinary Health encompasses Banfield, BluePearl and VCA in the U.S.; Linnaeus in the UK and AniCura in Europe as well as Antech Diagnostics and hospitals in Asia. She is passionate about women in leadership, veterinarians in leadership and about advancing the veterinary industry in a manner that serves all – people, pets and the planet. Jennifer serves on the Veterinary Innovation Council board and currently lives in the pacific northwest with her partner, Andrew, and their two dogs and a cat.

Roeland Wessels, DVM, MSc

St. Anna Advies | Founder

Roeland Wessels, DVM is a veterinarian and communication strategist. He is the founder of St. Anna Advice where he combines 15 years of communication expertise with 20 years of veterinary practice experience. St. Anna Advice combines strategic communication with a professional and practical approach for veterinary professionals. Realistic, creative and result-oriented. Roeland is also a lecturer at Utrecht University, the Netherlands and teaches ‘communication’ and ‘practice-management’

Marcie Whichard

NAVC | Vice President of Professional & Community Relations

Marcie Whichard has been in retail corporate management for over 30 years. She was most recently the Vice President, Industry and Public Affairs for Petco Animal Supplies, Inc. A seasoned professional with broad U.S. and global experience, including internal & external corporate communications, community outreach, crisis management, message development, brand management, advocacy, ally development, and budget accountability. Specializing in the areas of industry and public affairs, branding, government affairs and issues management.

Previously Marcie was the Vice President for Animal Care, Education and Compliance. In this capacity she provided the overall leadership and strategy for all animal care issues and concerns, developed and executed strategies to improve and maintain consistency in the care, health and sale of animals and implemented standards for the company in conjunction with animal welfare standards and regulatory requirements. She facilitated the Independent Animal Care Advisory Council made up of world renowned experts in animal health, welfare and ethics. Marcie also led Petco’s Think Adoption First initiative to find loving homes for adoptable animals.

Prior to leading the animal care initiatives at Petco, Marcie was the Vice President of Operations for the West Coast with P&L responsibility for $870M in annual sales revenue from 300 retail units. In this role she co-developed company business imperatives to align with company strategy. She also planned and executed new store openings and remodels, including analysis of new markets, selection of real estate, and forecasting sales and budgets.

Marcie sits on the Board of Directors for the Petco Foundation and Pet Partners. In her spare time Marcie enjoys sailing, traveling and gardening with her husband, Allen.

Shawn Wilkie

Talkatoo | Chief Executive Officer

I am a serial entrepreneur and technology enthusiast who can lead, sell and get things done. I have twenty years of experience in technology companies and I was a finalist for Ernest & Young’s prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2018. When I am not working, I want to be where the action is as a volunteer firefighter and avid traveler.

Bianca Zenor, DVM

IDEXX | Director of Medical Affairs

Dr. Zenor, a loyal Boilermaker, earned her BS in biology, MS in animal science, and DVM degree all from Purdue University. She spent 7 years in small-animal practice in Indiana, served as senior manager of veterinary affairs at Hill’s® Pet Nutrition, and then served as director of the Veterinary Nursing Program and clinical associate professor at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. She joined IDEXX in 2020 as the director of Medical Affairs, leading a team of managers and specialists in collaborative engagement with R&D, CAG lines of business, and the marketing organization with the goal of ensuring a strategic approach in support of the development, launch, and support of diagnostic products.