Meet America's Top 10 Veterinary Professionals And Vote For Your Favorites!

Voting now open for the 2018 American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards™, sponsored by Zoetis


WASHINGTON, May 3, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- American Humane, the country's first national humane organization, is pleased to announce that voting is now open in the fifth annual American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards™, sponsored by Zoetis. Following the review of more than 200 nominations from animal lovers across the country, a blue-ribbon judging panel of veterinary professionals and animal care experts has selected 10 of the country's top veterinarians and veterinary nurses as finalists. Pet owners and animal lovers alike are invited to visit every day between now and August 2 to vote for 2018's top American Hero Veterinarian and American Hero Veterinary Nurse.

The winners will be flown to Los Angeles to be honored on September 29 as part of the eighth annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards®, sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and Zoetis. The Hero Dog Awards will air nationwide as a two-hour special on Hallmark Channel this fall.

"Our finalists are outstanding examples of the veterinary community," said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP, executive director, Zoetis Petcare marketing. "The American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Veterinary Nurse Awards are Zoetis' way of giving back to those who keep our best friends healthy and strengthen the life-enhancing, even life-saving human-animal bond. Congratulations to our 10 extraordinary finalists!"

"Veterinarians and veterinary nurses are heroes to our animals, and to us," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. "These dedicated professionals work behind the scenes and without fanfare to keep these family members happy and healthy. We and the nation thank them, one and all!"

To read each of the nominees' stories, as told by the people who nominated them, and to vote daily for one of the five finalists in each of the American Hero Veterinarian and American Hero Veterinary Nurse categories, please visit

Meet the 10 heroic veterinarian and veterinary nurse finalists!

Here are the nomination essays written by their supporters:

American Hero Veterinarian finalists

Dr. David Chico (Albany, NY)
David Chico, DVM, MPH, exemplifies the American Hero Veterinarian through his commitment to the betterment of the health and well-being of animals and through his fostering of the human-animal bond in his community, nationally and internationally. He improves the lives of all those he touches, human and animal alike. Dr. Chico approached PAWS (a program that assists low-income, HIV-positive pet parents by assisting with vet care), proposing a free quarterly Pet Wellness Clinic that he would staff. His idea allows those with a compromised immune system to safely enjoy the love of their pet. The stigma around HIV is still strong & many HIV-positive folks are alone. As we say, "Imagine having a life-threatening illness; now imagine going through it alone." Ten years later, these clinics continue and have grown. He answers emergency calls at all hours and makes house calls for those too ill to come to the clinic. Dr. Chico also volunteers with Animals Lebanon in Beirut (an NGO that works to improve animal welfare in Lebanon). He joins the staff in providing life-saving care to severely abused and neglected animals. He adopted Habib, a disabled dog from Lebanon. Dr. Chico also has worked tirelessly on animal cruelty cases. He has deployed on several large dog fighting and neglect cases, and participated in disaster relief after many hurricanes. And these are only a few examples of his service!

Dr. Rebekah Hartfield (Tryon, OK)
Dr. Rebekah Hartfield likes to say, "I fought to get into vet school, fought to stay in, and fought to get out." Her personal struggle to pursue her passion of being a veterinarian is a badge she wears with honor. I also believe it's why she fights so hard to take the best possible care of the animals she sees daily at the Cushing Veterinary Clinic in rural Oklahoma. Dr. Hartfield is one of about 25 rural veterinarians that helps care for over 57,000 food animals found in Payne County, Oklahoma. That's over 2,200 food animals per practicing vet. Dr. Hartfield is hoping to help with the shortage in a unique way. By combining her three loves: reading, teaching and caring for animals, Dr. Hartfield hopes to inspire the next generation of veterinarians with her Doctor Hartfield Veterinary Book Series. Proceeds from the sale of the books goes to support a scholarship at the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. Since self-publishing her first book this past summer, Dr. Hartfield has read to over 3,500 students at schools, libraries and events across Oklahoma and Texas. She talks to the kids about being a veterinarian and what it means to care for animals, both small and large, every day. She does all this while still working 60 hours a week at the clinic, answering farm calls and taking care of her own animals on her ranch. I'm confident she is planting seeds for a new generation of vets that will credit her one day for their careers.

Dr. Martin Haulena (Point Roberts, WA)
Dr. Martin Haulena, or Dr. Marty, is one of the world's leading experts in marine mammals and is the head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and the Director of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Marty for nearly five years now. During this time, Dr. Marty has performed a number of incredible procedures and advances in veterinary medicine. Just some of his accomplishments include: saving Wally, the rescued sea otter who was blinded after being shot in the face; performing the first ever blood transfusion and nephrectomy (kidney removal) of another sea otter who had likely been struck by a boat; saving a stranded four-week-old false killer whale calf named Chester; mapping the beluga whale genome, and so many others. One of Dr. Marty's most innovative accomplishments is a new anesthetic darting protocol that is used to help animals in the wild. It is unique in that if the animal falls in the water, they can still breathe and won't drown. Over 400 sea lions along British Columbia's coast are entangled in marine debris, like ghost fishing gear and packing straps. Without help, these animals die slow, painful deaths. To date, Dr. Marty has saved over 20 sea lions by removing these entanglements and treating their wounds. Not only is he a brilliant veterinarian and researcher, Dr. Marty wears his heart on his sleeve for the animals in his care. They are like his family. Animal conservation is simply better because of him.

Dr. Michelle Myers (Columbia, MD)
Dr. Myers regularly volunteers her Saturdays to provide free veterinary care in Baltimore City's underserved neighborhoods. Dr. Myers has helped more than 1,000 of Baltimore's dogs in the past few years. On some occasions, she has served more than 100 dogs in one day. What started out as a free rabies clinic in collaboration with a local non-profit organization has morphed into a full wellness clinic thanks to Dr. Myers's dedication and commitment. She doesn't leave until the last dog is helped. Dr. Myers seeks out free samples and reduced-cost medications to provide the utmost care to dogs in Baltimore City. She will also write prescriptions for medications and work with a local pharmacy to deliver medications to the dog owner's front door, at no cost to the owner. Dr. Myers is also in collaborations with VCA Charities and Meals on Wheels so she can provide free veterinary care to homebound clients receiving Meals on Wheels in Central Maryland. Furthermore, she also volunteers with World Vets internationally to perform free spay/neuter surgeries to thousands of pets in Central America. Lastly, Dr. Myers participates in annual Feral Cat Day at her own hospital to sterilize and vaccinate local feral cat colonies. Dr. Michelle Myers embodies the heart of the veterinary profession.

Dr. Susan Nelms (Helena, AL)
Dr. Susan Nelms is many things - gifted surgeon, philanthropist, mentor, community servant, and owner of a highly regarded Veterinary Ophthalmology practice for 25 years. She is known for her generous heart. Her clients adore her and know she gives the best care possible. She is great with pet owners, showing empathy and explaining things thoroughly. Dr. Nelms gives her time, talent and resources to help homeless animals, service animals, and therapy animals. She began helping homeless animals at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society in the early '90s and continues to offer free care to rescue animals in need. She provides free eye exams to service and therapy animals annually. Dr. Nelms serves as a consulting ophthalmologist for Southern Research Institute, the Birmingham Zoo, and the Alabama Wildlife Center. She led the way for animal ophthalmology care in Birmingham and readily shares her knowledge with others, serving as an extern mentor for veterinary students. She served on the board of directors of the Vision for Animals Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of animals by preserving and restoring vision through education and science. For 17 years, Dr. Nelms served on the Advisory Council of Hand in Paw, an Alabama Animal-Assisted Therapy provider, and in 2018, joined its board of directors. Dr. Susan Nelms is a bright light, a true hero to animals and people.

American Hero Veterinary Nurse finalists

Jessica Garcia (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
I'm currently in school to gain my degree in veterinary technology and I've been working with Jessica for about a year. Jessica is everything I aspire to be as a veterinary nurse. She is confident and dependable. I've always admired that Jessica is the first to speak up when something seems wrong. She is always concerned with making sure we are practicing "good medicine." Her first thought is always for the safety of the pet and there have never been any issues with her keeping quiet when something needs to be said. I can't imagine how many pets have been saved because of her willingness to step forward. She is compassionate and giving. When we're busy and everything is going crazy, Jessica still takes the time to show a little love and care to our patients. She's quick to step up and help answer questions or show a new client where they can find the best information. She's the first one that I turn to when asking about rescues or safe havens for found pets and I know she's taken over a few pets of her own when the owners were ready to give up on them. Jessica is down to business, but she never forgets that our business is caring. She's an educator and a nurse. Jessica is always looking for opportunities for client education. She wants to make sure that our clients know the best way to take care of their beloved pets. She also helps to educate those of us around the clinic and has helped me to learn about nursing on multiple occasions!

Lynette Krystene Karpen (West Allis, WI)
Lynette is the most hardworking, honest and fair person I know. She started at Spirit as a shadow while in school for becoming a CVT. She was hired after finishing school and has now become the head tech. She cares about her staff and is always fair, including putting herself on the same level as she puts her staff, training, helping when asked, keeping an eye on all around her, and jumping in without hesitation when she sees someone needing help. For CVT week she made every day a surprise for her staff, got reps involved with lunches and gifts, and even made scrub tops for each of them, tie-dying each one with the colors that suited them. She is respected by her staff and gives that respect back to them. We are a busy clinic and, truly, some days you just want to find a corner and hide...but if Lynette feels like that you wouldn't know it. I see her with clients and the animals, and she is caring as are all the staff. She and her mum have had a feline rescue - maybe why she decided to go into the field. She is truly deserving of being recognized for all that she does. I'm happy to be given the opportunity to let people know and hope she sees this. Thank you for considering Lynette. She's always "Top Tech" in my book. The staff works as a team and Lynette does a fantastic job as she leads by example and never asks her staff to do anything she wouldn't do herself.

Nicole LaForest (Mountlake Forest, WA)
Nicole is one of the hardest-working LVT's who has ever graced our profession with seven years of experience. Her career started in the shelter where she devoted countless hours to rehabbing death row animals. She entered specialty medicine in 2012 at an emergency hospital in Seattle. In 2015, she began working double shifts at a large ortho and regenerative medicine practice during the day and in triage at night with little sleep in between. Nicole had to make one of the hardest decisions of her career and transitioned into ortho and regenerative medicine. Now, she flies around the world teaching surgical skills, regenerative medicine, and patient advocacy to students, VTs, VAs and even DVMs. Nicole lends her time as the president-elect of the WSAVT and gives a needed hand to our community's wildlife and research. In 2018, Nicole did one of the most heroic things a person could do in their lifetime. While driving home from work, she was rear-ended by a truck driving 60 mph. Her car was crushed as it smashed into two vehicles. She has hearing loss in her left ear, mouth injuries and broken teeth. Despite her bloody appearance, she ran to each of us in the crash to check on those who were hurt. Another car had crashed and their airbags deployed. Nicole pulled three children from their seats and rushed them across traffic to safety. After being witness to her commitment over the past several years. I am honored to say her commitment for patient care, two-or four-legged, extends far beyond our walls.

Nicole Burke (Albertville, MN)
Nicole is a one-of-a-kind technician. She brings so much to our clinic, but her warm and caring nature is what really sets her apart. She is constantly challenging herself and continuing her education in order to better herself and our clinic. She brings those experiences and her knowledge to our hospital and this not only benefits the clients, but the other technicians as well. Listening to her educate our clients is one of my favorite things to do... she exudes confidence and charisma while also giving them important information. If she doesn't know something, she is quick to find the answer, whether in a book or from simply asking the veterinarian. Her commitment to our clients and their pets is palpable and it is such a blessing to have her in our hospital. I feel very fortunate to have her as a resource, a fellow leader and friend.

Tammy Boland (Oceanport, NJ)
Tammy Boland has saved hundreds of our canine companions over the last 11+ years through her nonprofit, Pick Your Paw Animal Rescue. Tammy's journey in rescuing dogs began by adopting Ella, a 9-year-old German Shepherd, who was soon to be euthanized. Tammy networks with some of the busiest shelters in the NJ-NY-PA area, where she pulls the most at-risk dogs: seniors, those with medical needs and pit bulls. Tammy has seen how a dog who has been abused, neglected or left behind will forgive and trust again. And through her work as a vet tech, she knows how a dog in physical or emotional pain can be treated and helped. This is what keeps her going. This is her mission. She has helped fighting and bait dogs find a new lease on life. She has arranged for emergency surgeries. She has helped dogs recover from chronic medical issues. She has provided a safe haven through her foster home network. Her fellow vet techs and staff are also invested in the dogs she brings into the animal hospital where she has worked for 19 years, often fostering "Tammy's dogs." She recently rescued the "5 Minions" - pit bulls saved from fighting - to see them play on grass for the first time. She remembers when her son Evan was a first grader and he convinced his classmates to ask their parents to adopt a pit bull. Tammy plans to continue to guide the next generation of animal lovers and advocates. Although Tammy asks for no recognition, her rescue organization is truly the "little rescue group that can."

About American Humane
American Humane is the country's first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit

About Zoetis
Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products, genetic tests, biodevices and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2017, the company generated annual revenue of $5.3 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit


CONTACT: Mark Stubis/American Humane, 202-677-4227,, or Colleen White/Zoetis, 973-822-7203,

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