Katie Woodard, DVM

Raised in Houston, Texas, Katie Woodard, DVM ’14, grew up raising show pigs for Future Farmers of America (FFA). Not only was it a big part of her childhood, the experience later fueled her interest in swine medicine, and eventually spurred her on toward a career in veterinary medicine.

Today, Dr. Woodard resides in rural Iowa with her husband and three children, working as a veterinary specialist at the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (ISU VDL). At one of the largest food animal diagnostic labs in the country, her job is to support food animal veterinarians in the field and provide quality service to the food animal agriculture industry.

“Growing up as I did, I never developed much interest in the small animal side of veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Woodard. “And I knew, even then, that I wanted to be involved in safeguarding the health of food animals, a role perhaps I was always destined for.”

Working at the VDL for the past five years, Dr. Woodard’s case load consists of about 85 percent swine—a reflection of the large swine industry located in Iowa and across the Midwest. On any given day, the diagnostics lab processes between 400 and 500 cases, making for a dynamic and ever-changing work environment. In her current role, she is responsible for all client outreach and education, where she assists her clients with disseminating information coming out of the lab, IT innovations, and retrieving diagnostic data from the lab.

“Our clients are veterinarians, and my job is all about making the diagnostic lab/client interaction as streamlined and straightforward as possible,” Dr. Woodard said. “My position helps to bridge that communication between lab and real life.”

Additionally, each summer she takes on a veterinary student intern to work on a project related to the lab and/or the swine industry. This could include anything from collecting samples in the field to developing better testing protocols or testing different swab types in the lab to make more informed recommendations to her clients in the field.

Continuing her tradition of educating future veterinarians, Dr. Woodard has also chosen to give back to her alma mater. Now, a visiting professor at SGU, she teaches the swine portion of the three-year veterinary students’ curriculum in the School of Veterinary Medicine. In addition, she has interviewed students applying to the veterinary school for several years.

“St. George’s University was actually the only veterinary school I applied to,” stated Dr. Woodard. “Having worked at the Louisiana State University School Of Veterinary Medicine as a technician for two years, I was already familiar with the traditional US model, and wanted to see what other options were out there for schooling. This, combined with my impatience to get started, led me to choose SGU since it offered rolling admissions, a much-needed change of scenery, and a more hands-on approach to learning.”

According to Dr. Woodard, she looks forward to continuing to play her part in the training of young veterinary students and considers it a privilege to be able to introduce them to the work of swine medicine and all the industry has to offer. With her future interests turning toward biosecurity and transportation and the impact those practices have on the health of food animals, she still maintains her commitment to the education of food-animal-oriented veterinary students.

Published December 2019

Heath Soignier, DVM, CVMST

When S. Heath Soignier, DVM ’12, CVMST, isn’t visiting his equine patients, one can usually find him practicing new holistic veterinary medicine techniques on his quarter horse, Margarita.

“To me, horses and dogs are two of the best animals: if you trust them completely, they are most willing to reciprocate that trust. Not a lot of animals are like that,” Dr. Soignier said. “I love that I get to work with horses all day long.”

Growing up on a small farm in Bosco, LA, Dr. Soignier always had an affinity for animals, aspiring to be a mixed animal veterinarian. Yet his career path led him another way—and one nearly 700 miles from his hometown.

“During my third year at St. George’s University, I visited Lexington with some classmates,” he said. “You hear of the Kentucky Derby and how it’s the horse capital of the world, but it’s so different to experience it. My plans [after graduation] were to go back home and work in a mixed animal practice there, but I came here for a week and kind of fell in love with the place.”

Following graduation, Dr. Soignier accepted a one-year internship position at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY and was offered to stay on after his internship was completed. Today he is an ambulatory associate at Rood and Riddle, which is a full-service equine hospital with satellite offices in Saratoga, NY and Wellington, FL. The hospital treats all different breeds of equine, including racehorses, quarter horses, mini-ponies, and donkeys.

“Our surgeons even treated a baby giraffe,” he said. “It’s not just thoroughbreds.”

As an ambulatory associate, much of Dr. Soignier’s time is spent on the road, visiting local farms. “Fall is a much slower time compared to the spring, which is foaling and breeding season for thoroughbreds. I handle a lot of reproductive cases, dentistry, even veterinary spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic) for my patients,” he said. “It’s a bit more of a demanding schedule and it can be a bit stressful in that regard, but I love it.”

“Horses can’t tell you what hurts—it’s our job to figure that out,” he added. “You have to be patient, but horses can really teach you about life and themselves. It’s very rewarding.”

From equipment to improving procedure techniques, even incorporating holistic methods of healing, Dr. Soignier is always looking at ways to impact a horse’s life in a positive way. For example, “within our practice we have digital radiograph machines that can take X-rays in the field. They’re wireless, which allows easier maneuverability and to be able to do that in the field with high-quality images is especially helpful,” Dr. Soignier said.

When not seeing patients, Dr. Soignier enjoys spending time with his wife and fellow SGU graduate Catherine Hercula-Soignier, DVM ’12, and his two young daughters on their 10-acre farm in Georgetown, KY. He is also an avid sports enthusiast and outdoorsman.

“I think the best thing about St. George’s is your classmates become your family,” and in Dr. Soignier’s case quite literally. “I joke that I left Grenada with a degree, a wife, and three dogs.”

Dr. Soignier’s wife is chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital, a small animal cooperate practice. He loves that he can ask for her opinion on particularly challenging cases.

“If you had told me 10 years ago this is where I would be, I would say you were crazy,” he acknowledged. “But I worked hard to get where I am today. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”


Published December 2019

Autumn Unck, DVM

As a veterinary medical officer with the Animal Care unit of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, St. George’s University graduate Autumn Unck, DVM ’15, has a wide range of responsibilities that affect both humans and animals. And she loves what she does.

“My job is so diverse—every day is different—and that really helps satisfy my passion for public service,” Dr. Unck said. “That’s what got me into this. I have a passion for animals, public service, and giving back. The job incorporates everything I love.”

The Animal Care unit employs around 200 civil servants located around the US, including veterinary medical officers and specialists who have expertise with marine mammals, exotic cats, and primates. The unit conducts inspections of approximately 8,000 licensed or registered facilities annually under the Animal Welfare Act and each year it inspects over 1,500 horses at shows and other events for compliance with the Horse Protection Act.

As a field veterinarian, Dr. Unck performs inspections and assessments of the overall treatment of animals at various research facilities, zoos, licensed breeding facilities, and educational exhibitors, among other places, in her territory of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. She is also responsible for evaluating the qualifications of facility professionals and to review protocols to ensure proper use and care of animals in research facilities.

“When it comes to research facilities and zoos—some of that is very controversial in the public’s eyes because they don’t understand what’s going on there. By being present and speaking to the teams that work there, I know these facilities have phenomenal vets and caretakers,” Dr. Unck said. “The biggest misconception is that the animals aren’t being taken care of. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We are really an advocate of making sure that that public is educated when it comes to these facilities.”

Dr. Unck’s other responsibilities include assisting with the implementation of the Horse Protection Act, by ensuring that horse shows safeguard against unfair competition. She is also part of the team that travels across the country to help out when there is a natural disaster or disease outbreak, such as the Newcastle Disease outbreak in 2016 in several counties in Southern California.

Following a natural disaster or outbreak, “being able to step in and provide some type of comfort or relief [to farmers], by letting them know that someone cares in their time of need” is particularly gratifying, she said.



Dr. Unck acknowledged that while travel for her job has been temporarily curtailed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining relationships, such as with the regulated facilities and horse owners/exhibitors is imperative.

“We are constantly checking in to see if they have the support they need, or if they have questions or concerns,” she said.



Dr. Unck grew in up Southern California and fell in love with animals at an early age. She clearly remembers visiting San Diego’s Sea World, at which she was invited to pet the famous killer whale, Shamu. “To see the huge massive animal diving and being entertaining, yet so delicate and graceful in front of me—at one point he looked at me and we locked eyes and that’s when I became hooked,” said Dr. Unck, who is the proud fur mom of three rescue dogs, and a donkey she brought back from the Caribbean.

Yet before setting her career sights on vet medicine, Dr. Unck said she considered entering the military or public service. “I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I was graduating from undergrad and vet school when the US was sending people overseas,” she said.

Although Dr. Unck ultimately ended up in a career she enjoys, her path there was a bit winding. She transferred to SGU after initially starting her veterinary education at a different Caribbean school. It proved to be a positive move. Dr. Unck fondly recalls her interactions with SGU instructors and noted the advantages to leaving the US, including the ability to gain exposure to different experiences they wouldn’t normally have. Despite Grenada’s small size, she had the chance to work closely with a variety of animals and farmers, particularly when it came to receiving experience in large animal medicine.

Dr. Unck was also sure to get involved in a myriad of student-led clubs and organizations and to put in time at the University’s Large Animal Research Facility.

“Going to SGU was best of both worlds,” she said. “With veterinary schools in the states, you just stay at one school throughout your education. I had amazing didactic lessons in Grenada and then another year of clinical education at Cornell University.”

Finding a career opportunity within the USDA serves her desire to go into public service.

“I’m helping the helpless. Animals can’t tell you what’s wrong and many animal caretakers are not trained veterinarians, so they reach out to us for help,” she said. “It’s an awesome and humbling position to be in and I wouldn’t change it for the world. SGU made that happen.”


Published June 2020

Joe Masciana, DVM

Dr. Joe Masciana is an emergency and critical care resident vet at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital in California. Originally from Long Island, NY, Dr. Masciana trained for three years at St. George’s University before completing his fourth-year rotations at North Carolina State University. Upon graduating, he joined a small animal rotating internship before moving to Los Angeles and starting his residency.

Dr. Masciana came to SGU after earning a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from Binghamton University.

Your career has already taken you to some wonderful locations. Was that a consideration when choosing to study at SGU?

The opportunity to live in the Caribbean was a definite attraction. I was also drawn to the reputation of the veterinary course and the quality of education I would receive at SGU. Since graduating, I’ve been fortunate enough to live and work in North Carolina and California which are both terrific locations. I strongly believe that my qualification from SGU has created opportunities for me to work all over the world.

People who become vets often choose their career when they are very young. Was that the case for you?

Yes. I always wanted to treat animals. When I was young, I used to pick up stray dogs in our neighborhood and bring them home to look after them. I also loved science and math from a young age, which is helpful if you want to become a vet. I remember asking for extra science homework at school because I enjoyed it so much. My first degree, which I completed at Binghamton University in New York, was in cell and molecular biology.

When I was a teenager, I worked at an emergency veterinary hospital as a flush maker, where I would make up syringes for the vets, and while studying for my first degree at Binghamton, I had a job during college holidays cleaning out kennels at a vet’s office where I was eventually promoted to assistant technician. It was during this time that I applied for vet school at SGU and I haven’t looked back.

What did you gain from studying at SGU?

First and foremost, I gained an education and a qualification in a discipline I’m passionate about. I also got involved in multiple clubs and societies at SGU. I was president of the Animal Rescue Fund, which raised money to provide emergency care for animals without owners or insurance. This charity also found foster carers and permanent homes for the animals after they’d received treatment. I was president of the National Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society, which is a student organization that promotes the education and involvement of veterinary students in emergency and critical care medicine.

I’m really pleased that I made the most of my time living on such a beautiful island. I spent a lot of my free time scuba diving, hiking, and waterfall jumping. Diving with sharks and achieving my advanced scuba diving certificate were experiences I won’t forget.

I also gained some wonderful friends who I’m still in touch with now. We still visit each other and go on holidays together, and it’s brilliant to have a global network of supportive alumni.

What’s next for your career?

I made a decision at SGU to focus on small animal care mainly due to my love of dogs and cats—I currently own two rescue dogs of my own. I love all animals, but I’m really pleased with this decision. After graduating, I took an internship to gain experience in emergency medicine and I’m now specializing in emergency and critical care. I find it extremely rewarding because I’m in a position to help patients who come to us in distressing situations. Being able to provide comfort with medical and surgical interventions and see patients walk out of surgery after recovering from critical conditions is wonderful.

I also enjoy research and I’ve just submitted my first paper on stem cell transplants in dogs. I’d like to do more research in the future, and one day I might like to teach alongside practicing. It’s great to have so many opportunities ahead of me.


Published April 2019

Francisco Torrado, DVM

For Francisco Torrado, DVM ’12, becoming a veterinarian seemed like the natural thing to do with his life. His mother is a registered nurse and he always loved science and medicine, but it was spending all of his summers on his grandfather’s farm in Puerto Rico that solidified his calling to veterinary medicine.

Dr. Torrado’s passion for the profession remains as he serves as a Relief Veterinarian at Live Oak Animal Hospital in Vero Beach, FL. The small animal clinic is mainly dedicated to cats and dogs and has allowed him to utilize his training and expertise with emergency and critical care cases for the past three years.

After graduating from high school, Dr. Torrado attended the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayaguez campus, graduating in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in animal industry. In 2008, he enrolled at the School of Veterinary Medicine at St. George’s University. A huge sailing enthusiast, Dr. Torrado bought and lived on a sailboat while attending classes for his last three years at SGU, allowing him to enjoy Grenada and the region by land and by sea.

“My experience at SGU was amazing. I felt completely prepared to enter the veterinary profession, maybe even more so than my US counterparts,” praised Dr. Torrado. “Being in a different country and having to learn about a different culture really helped me to become more compassionate to my clients and patients. All that I learned during my time at SGU played a substantial role in my overall success as a veterinarian.”

Dr. Torrado enjoys visiting Grenada every chance he gets, annually sailing from Florida to Grenada to visit friends and professors at SGU and to celebrate in the popular Grenada Sailing Festival. On his last trip to Grenada, he got engaged to his fiancée, Haley, at the Aquarium Restaurant on island. His fiancée, who he met during his year of clinical training at the University of Florida, loved Grenada so much they decided to return in November 2015 for a beach wedding.

“There have been several of us that have come back to celebrate our weddings in Grenada,” shared Dr. Torrado. “It is another one of the reasons this island is so wonderful. The University, the community, the people, and the island itself just keep calling you back.”

While preparing for his wedding, Dr. Torrado and two of his classmates also participated in a Grand Round. He felt it was the perfect opportunity to give back and share his experiences with the future veterinarians. He spoke of how SGU played a major role in how he got to where he is today and answered their questions on internships and what to expect after graduation.

“It is important to stay true to yourself,” advised Dr. Torrado. “Not everyone is meant to be a surgeon; some of us were meant to be general practitioners and I love what I do. At one point I thought I wanted to be a surgeon but I realized I liked being around clients and talking to them and building a relationship with patients and the people that own them. General practice allows me to do all of that and I think that I have fulfilled all of my dreams.”

Published April 2017

Sylke Lohmann, DVM

As an emergency veterinarian at VCA Newark Animal Hospital in Delaware, Sylke Lohmann, DVM ’16, is met with a new challenge each day, requiring her to regularly draw upon all she learned as a veterinary medical student at St. George’s University.

“I definitely feel prepared,” she said. “We learned everything we needed to learn. It’s just a matter of accessing that information again and putting it into practice.”

Growing up in Rimbey, Alberta, a town of a couple thousand people located four hours outside Calgary, becoming a veterinarian had always been the plan for Dr. Lohmann. At her family’s farm, she was surrounded by cows, horses, chickens, ducks, and “everything else you could imagine,” she said. Dr. Lohmann’s mother, who was originally from Germany, had always wanted be a vet yet never had the opportunity. Instead, with the farm, she prepared her daughter to follow her own dream.

“I’ve always loved being around animals,” she said. “I love the connection you make with them, and how they’re unconditionally loving and easy to be around.”

From the farm, Dr. Lohmann became a registered veterinary technician, working in clinics in and around Calgary full- and part-time while working toward a Bachelor of Science from the University of Calgary. The path took her all the way to St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, to which, after receiving positive reviews from past colleagues at veterinary practices, she applied and enrolled thanks in part to a partial scholarship.

In Grenada, she joined the Hashing Club—joining friends on long hikes—and volunteered for the Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (SVECCS) and Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA). In the classroom, she especially enjoyed her junior surgery classes with Drs. Marta Lanza Perea and Tara Paterson.

“They were great; they were so encouraging and made surgery such a great experience,” Dr. Lohmann said. “I loved that we got so much hands-on experience, including many, many spays and neuters in our second and third years. They really wanted us to be good doctors, and it was helpful that we could touch the animals and interact with them. With the relatively short time the professors had with us, it was clear they really cared and wanted to teach us everything possible.”

In 2014, Dr. Lohmann was welcomed to the SVM’s Phi Zeta National Honor Society. Her surgery experience was so impactful that she hoped to make a career out of it, and it has been only one of her responsibilities in Newark.

“With surgery, it’s an amazing feeling to be able to put something back together,” Dr. Lohmann said. “You’re able to take an animal who isn’t walking and have it walking the next day. You can really make a difference, just like you can with people.”

Updated February 2021

Kirsten Traul, DVM

Growing up in Colorado, Kirsten Traul, DVM ’04, admits she had similar dreams to her fellow horse-crazy classmates—she wanted to be a professional rider. She couldn’t get enough of horses then, and her attitude hasn’t wavered, although she’s in a different albeit rewarding role as the attending veterinarian at Premier Breeding Services, a large equine reproduction facility in southeast Denver, CO.

“It is fascinating to me because no two days are alike,” said Dr. Traul. “Every day has something unusual to it that makes me stretch and grow as a veterinarian. I really enjoy working with horses, particularly with the foals. It’s kind of a mix of being an OB/GYN and an emergency room doctor. It is fun.”

Her affinity for horses started at age eight and she was a competitive rider throughout junior high school and high school. “A woman in the neighborhood who had a horse farm let a bunch of us kids go and ride and play with the babies,” Dr. Traul recalls. “She got me completely hooked on horses.”

Her love of horses evolved into a desire to care for them in the most intense way possible—as a veterinarian. She enrolled at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine to pursue that dream and took advantage of learning from a faculty that was both renowned and diverse. She fully embraced the Grenadian culture and appreciated the knowledge and accessibility of the professors.

“SGU taught me to think through a diagnosis and to ask the right questions,” Dr. Traul said. “The experience was very hands-on and that helped you developed good observation skills.”

Located just outside the SGU campus, the Elisabeth McClellan Small Animal Clinic provides outstanding care to the Grenadian community while also serving as a venue to teach St. George’s University students the clinical skills necessary to be successful in the profession.

Dr. Traul completed her clinical rotations at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in early January 2004.  She was hired by Washington State CVM’s anesthesia department immediately after graduation. In 2006, she and her husband moved to Colorado where she was appointed to the Premier Breeding Services staff. By Dr. Traul’s estimation, the organization breeds upwards of 300 mares a season, delivering 30 to 40, and stands between 15 and 20 stallions. In addition to basic reproduction services, she provides neonatal care, assists in the transfer of embryos and collects semen for shipping and freezing, as well as dealing with colics and other emergencies.

She runs a mobile veterinary service during the fall months; horses breed from January to September. In visits to her clients, Dr. Traul administers vaccinations, performs routine physical examinations, and responds to various emergencies. She is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist.

“One of the best things about SGU is the fact that it isn’t a US school,” Dr. Traul said. “It makes you think in a different way, and makes you a better vet. I enjoyed the experience very much.”

Published April 2013

Joshua Morgenstern, DVM

Dr. Joshua Morgenstern is a first-year veterinary cardiology resident at Advanced Veterinary Care Center in Lawndale, CA, a practice with specialty services in cardiology, internal medicine, oncology, and surgery, as well as emergency care. He is involved in everything from installing pacemakers, performing balloon valvuloplasties, and many other interventional intravascular procedures. In addition to his work in the catheter lab, he manages dogs and cats in congestive heart failure, animals with congenital heart defects, and others with complex arrhythmias.

“Cardiology isn’t for everybody, but I’ve found that I excel at it and really enjoy it,” Dr. Morgenstern said. “It takes a certain type of person to treat older patients and diseases we often can’t fix. Cardiology is a rapidly growing field in both human and veterinary medicine.”

Upon graduating in 2011, Dr. Morgenstern further enhanced his clinical skills and resume by doing a rotating internship in medicine and surgery at the prestigious Animal and Medical Center in New York and then completing a cardiology internship at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, FL. Dr. Morgenstern then matched with the cardiology residency at Advanced Veterinary Care Center. His primary case load at AVCC involves cats and dogs, but on occasion everything from birds and rabbits to horses. He has even performed an echocardiogram on a grizzly bear.

Born and raised in New York, Dr. Morgenstern majored in animal science at The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and earned his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 2007. When weighing his veterinary medical school options, a family friend who was also a veterinarian raved about the caliber of SGU graduates with whom he crossed paths. Dr. Morgenstern diligently researched the University and its programs, and in August 2007, he enrolled at SGU, studying basic sciences for three years in Grenada.

“It’s an experience that I wouldn’t trade even if I had an opportunity to go to a state school,” Dr. Morgenstern said. “It’s rewarding in that you learn about more than just medicine; you learn about life. The level of education is second to none, and it provided me with the tools that I needed to excel. Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the opportunity I was given by St. George’s University.”

Upon arriving, he immediately took advantage of unparalleled access to faculty members and student support from the award-winning Department of Educational Services. It also didn’t take long for him to grow fond of his new classmates.

“Moving to a new country, we were all experiencing the same thing, and we all had a passion and drive to become a veterinarian,” said Dr. Morgenstern, who also has helped SGU with student recruitment and counseling.  “I think we all found comfort in that and grew together not only as a class but as a family.”

As a veterinarian, he draws great satisfaction from keeping families of a different kind together.
“It’s wonderful when we are able to take a bad situation and make it right,” Dr. Morgenstern said.

“The feeling of getting our patients back home to their families and the appreciation that we receive is extremely rewarding.”

Published February 2012

Jill MacLeese, DVM

Jill MacLeese was certainly not thinking of ophthalmology when she enrolled in veterinary school. However, it did not take long for her to fall in love with the specialty, and her passion for ophthalmology has intensified ever since. Now a three-year resident at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island (VMCLI) in New York, Dr. MacLeese could not be happier with the path she has taken.

“The more ophthalmology I was exposed to, the more I loved it,” she said. “Many people tend to become uneasy when faced with ophthalmology cases but I’ve always been fascinated with the field.”

An ophthalmologic case of uveitis, or inflammation to the uvea portion of the eye, during her second year at SGU sparked her interest in the specialty. However, it wasn’t until her clinical year at North Carolina State University that her desire to pursue an ophthalmology residency was solidified. At the 2010 American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ACVO) conference opportunity knocked in the form of  a chance meeting with Dr. Noelle La Croix, DACVO, an ophthalmologist at VMCLI. Dr. MacLeese was granted a specialty internship in ophthalmology at the practice and in July 2012 began a coveted veterinary ophthalmology residency in a position that VMCLI made exclusively for her.

The position has her working on a variety of ophthalmology cases, predominantly treating small animals, while also examining horses, birds, rabbits and other exotic species. In addition, she works one night per week in emergency medicine and travels to the University of Pennsylvania monthly for ocular histopathology rounds.

“I love it here,” Dr. MacLeese said. “It’s very busy practice; I see approximately 15 to 20 cases a day, so I’m getting a lot of clinical experience.”

Dr. MacLeese has given back to the University by working as a student liaison representative, while also talking about her SGU experience at a number of the University’s information sessions. She feels strongly about speaking on her alma mater’s behalf as it has laid the foundation for her professional success.

“I have always felt just as prepared as any of my veterinary counterparts from state schools,” Dr. MacLeese said. “I had a wonderful time in Grenada and wouldn’t change my experience there for anything in the world.”

Published November 2012

Jennifer Lopez, DVM, MBA

As a veterinarian, Jennifer Lopez, DVM ’11, MBA ’13, is accustomed to making important decisions that affect the welfare of her patients. Now as medical director of VCA Castle Shannon Animal Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, her decisions affect the entire practice. It’s a position for which she is well prepared, having obtained both her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Business Administration from St. George’s University.

“The reason I got this job was because of my MBA,” Dr. Lopez said. “They were looking for someone with management experience, and a lot of the things that I learned in class I use every day.”

Having made a positive impression at Banfield Pet Hospital during four separate stints on her breaks from school, Dr. Lopez began practicing as an Associate Veterinarian at Banfield’s midtown Miami location in 2011. It was during that time that she enrolled in SGU’s MBA program, specializing in multi-sector health management. With the exception of two one-week residency sessions in Grenada, classes were held entirely online, which worked well with her hospital schedule. She completed her MBA in fewer than 18 months, and graduated in 2013 with a deeper understanding of international business, global health, and principled leadership.

Dr. Lopez now oversees 12 doctors and 30 support staff in her role as medical director. She also works as an emergency and general practice veterinarian, visiting with patients for well visits and conducting critical care treatment, including surgeries, on a regular basis. In addition, the hospital gives back to the community, hosting community days, donating their services and educating owners on how to best take care of their pets. For her leadership, Dr. Lopez was recognized in the 2016 edition of Icons of Pittsburgh, a book that annually recognizes prominent figures in the Steel City.

Dr. Lopez grew up in Miami, FL, where her parents bred Rottweilers. “We always had puppies around, so I thought that was a normal thing,” she said. “I don’t even know what else I would do if it didn’t involve animals.” She obtained her Bachelor of Science in animal biology from the University of Florida in 2001, and went on to earn a bachelor’s deggree in business administration from the University of Phoenix in 2004. While pursuing those degrees, she worked in UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine as a veterinary technician, specializing in dermatology, which she also researched in depth.

Tara Paterson, DVM ’03, and Janet Caracciolo, DVM ’03, came through Florida during their clinical year and spoke glowingly about their experience at SGU. They encouraged her to apply, and she enrolled in 2006.

Dr. Lopez found veterinary school to be a challenge, but she was up to that challenge. She embraced the Grenadian culture and appreciated the hands-on experience that the School of Veterinary Medicine provided early on, identifying Drs. Timothy Ayliffe and Marta Lanza-Perea as especially influential figures in her education. She and her classmates held numerous community outreach events, including vaccine clinics and sponsoring lunches.

“It was more difficult than I expected,” Dr. Lopez said. “You don’t just sit at the beach with flash cards every day, although you definitely do occasionally. It’s a good balance. Grenada is a beautiful country and its people are amazing.”

In addition, she served as president of the Jewish Student Association and American Animal Hospital Association, mentored incoming students as part of the SGU’s Footsteps program, and held the position of student representative for Pfizer and VCA Hospitals.

“The friends and the connections that I made and the confidence that I gained made me a better veterinarian and person,” Dr. Lopez said. “The faculty spent time with us. They really cared about us doing well, going on to do clinics well, and becoming very good veterinarians.”

She has become one herself, and hopes to pass down the knowledge and skills she has gained to her staff. For a Floridian, relocating to the northeast was an adjustment for Dr. Lopez and her bulldogs, but she admits she has had her time in the sun. “In Florida and Grenada, I wore a lot of flip-flops and shorts, so I’m good with scarves and boots.”