KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr. Mitsie Vargas

PLENARY SPEAKERS:  Dr Cedric Lazarus • Dr. David Wilkie • Dr. Leachim Semaj

DR. MITSIE VARGAS | Keynote Speaker

Dr. Mitsie Vargas received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Tuskegee University in 1994 and established her AAHA accredited Orchid Springs Animal Hospital in Winter Haven, Florida two years later. In 2009 she started her studies at Chi Institute, eventually garnering certifications in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Food Therapy and Tui Na. Most recently, she was FAAVA certified (Fellow of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture) and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) at Chi Institute, where she works as a Teaching Assistant and Lecturer for Chi Latin America. She has also worked as a TCVM consultant for Disney Animal Kingdom.  

In addition to work in academia, Dr. Vargas is a certified veterinary journalist and a prolific author of both scientific and motivational articles. She has lectured at the World TCVM Congress (20015, 2016 & 2017), AAVA Conference (2017) and AVMA (2011). She is a guest blogger for www.allthingshealings.com and a writer for Woman to Woman magazine. She also wrote a chapter in Jack Canfield’s Amazon bestselling book, “The Soul of Success”. She served as an AVMA spokesperson for the Hispanic market and has recorded many PSA’s and radio interviews promoting responsible pet ownership. Her love for traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine coupled with her desire to educate the public is manifested in her book “Alt-Vet: The Revolutionary Pet Care and Longevity Solution”. 

Her passion for helping animals and her volunteerism has awarded her state and national recognition including the Purina National Pet Care Award, Bay News 9 Medical Hero Award and the FVMA Gold Award. She was honoured by the American Veterinary Foundation as “America's Favorite Veterinarian" in 2015. 

Dr. Vargas lives in Winter Haven, Florida with her husband, two daughters and a menagerie of pets. 


DR. CRAIG STEPHEN |  Featured Speaker

Dr. Stephen is the CEO of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and a Professor of Population Health. His work focuses on emerging health threats at the interface of people, animals and our shared environment. His current work aims to develop health intelligence systems that strive to identify vulnerable populations and locations to support efforts to bolster resilience and preparedness in advance of harms rather than the historic approach of detection and response to harms after they emerged. Dr. Stephen advocates for a holistic approach to health that supports reciprocal care of public health and the health of the environment. 


DR. DAVID WILKIE |  Plenary Speaker

Dr. Wilkie obtained his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 from the University of Guelph, Canada.  He spent one year at the University of Pennsylvania as an intern and in 1985 went to Ohio State University to begin a 3-year residency and Masters degree in Comparative Ophthalmology.  He received both his Masters degree (MS) and Ophthalmology Specialty Boards (ACVO) in 1988.  He was subsequently hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Ohio State University and then promoted to Associate Professor of Veterinary Ophthalmology.  He is currently Professor of Ophthalmology and Department Chair of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, as well as a Professor in the College of Medicine at Ohio State University.

Dr. Wilkie has trained 21 residents who are board certified in the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists or the European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, and three Diplomates in Japanese Comparative Ophthalmology.  In addition, Dr. Wilkie has provided advanced training in ophthalmology to 20 graduate students and over 34 veterinary ophthalmologists from 12 countries.

Dr. Wilkie is author of 102 articles, 104 abstracts and 46 textbook chapters, and serves as a research consultant to numerous national and international research facilities.  He has served as an editor of several textbooks and serves on the editorial board of nine veterinary and human ophthalmology and research journals.  He is the past chairperson of the Examination Committee of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and Past-President for the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.  He is currently the editor for the Journal of Veterinary Ophthalmology.  He is an international speaker having presented seminars in many countries around the world and has received multiple nominations and awards including the Merck/AgVet Award for Creativity in Teaching, the National Gamma Award for Distinguished Service at Ohio State University and the North American Veterinary Conference Equine Speaker of the Year Award in 2013.  Most recently, he has been nominated for the AAVC Faculty Achievement Award in 2016 and 2017.

Dr. Wilkie is married to Dr. Susan Johnson, a Professor in Small Animal Internal Medicine, and they have two children both attending university. Dr. Wilkie plays hockey and enjoys downhill skiing, wilderness canoeing, windsurfing, scuba diving and life at his cottage in Canada.

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DR. SUSAN KOENIG |  Featured Speaker

Susan has been working as a wildlife ecologist in the Caribbean and Jamaica for more than 20 years. She received her doctorate from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, while serving as the director of the Jamaica Parrot Project - a collaborative project with BirdLife Jamaica that evaluated the status and health of Jamaica’s endemic parrots. In 2002 she co-founded Windsor Research Centre, a community-based environmental NGO located in Cockpit Country, the highest-ranked Biodiversity Hotspot in the insular Caribbean. In her research, she is interested in understanding how human modifications to a natural landscape affect the interactions among wildlife species and the subsequent ecological services they provide. This interest has enabled her to work with diverse taxa, including birds, snakes, bats, and frogs. When not busy sharing her research findings with local communities in socially-relevant locations (churches & schools by day, rum bars by night), she also serves on the IUCN's Boa and Python Specialist Group and on Jamaica’s Invasive Alien Species Working Group and the Endangered Animals Recovery Working Group.  


DR. CECIL BROWNIE |  Featured Speaker

Cecil Fitz George Brownie, a Jamaican by birth (August 11, 1944, Petersfield Westmoreland). He received elementary (Petersfield Elementary), vocational (Frome Senior School), and tertiary education (Jamaica School of Agriculture) in Jamaica. He taught at secondary (Mannings High School and Cornwall College), vocational  (Knockalva Agriculture Training Center and tertiary (Jamaica School of Agriculture) educational institutions before matriculating at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York from which he received both the BS degree in Animal Science and the DVM degree in Veterinary Medicine in 1971 and 1975, respectively. He practiced professionally as a Clinical Veterinary Surgeon (Jamaica West Indies) for a period of three years (1975-1978) before returning to Cornell University in September 1978 to pursue  graduate studies in the fields of Pharmacology/Toxicology/Pathology, for which he was awarded the PhD degree on August 28, 1981. He has since remained in academia, first as a visiting assistant professor (Toxicology) at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (1981-1982), then starting in 1982 as an assistant professor (Pharmacology/Toxicology) moving through the tenured promotional ranks, becoming a Full Professor of Pharmacology/Toxicology at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, until retiring on August 31st 2006. Since 2008 he has maintained a part time veterinary practice as the proprietor of Mobile Veterinary Practice of Raleigh, PLLC. He has been married since August 24th 1968 to Cavell Brownie née Sherlock (Emeritus Professor of Statistics, North Carolina State University). Together they have two sons Mark Andrew and Paul Michael Brownie, and a daughter-in-law Elizabeth Brownie nee Clegg (Mark’s wife). The family currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.


Michelle Sinclair Doyley says she does not work . . . she enjoys her way to a paycheck.

Michelle joined the JMMB Team in 2005 as Personal Portfolio Manager. In this capacity most of her clients were earning up to four times the market rates.

While a part of JMMB’s Sales Team, her stellar performance resulted in her receiving JMMB’s Exceptional Performance Award every year since its inception.   However, she recognized that people were crying out for Financial Education.  Encouraged by one of JMMB’s founders Donna Duncan-Scott, she wrote a proposal to the JMMB Board and created her role as Manager - Client Financial Education.

The programme has been a success and in 2016 she was a recipient of one of JMMB’s Special Recognition Awards.  She is on a mission to ensure every Jamaican is financially educated by 2030 and her bi-monthly column in the Monday, Gleaner is one vehicle to make this vision a reality.

Her educational qualifications span a wide array of certifications including a MBA in International Business from the UWI Mona.

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BILL SCHROEDER | Featured Speaker

Bill is a founding owner of InTouch Practice Communications and has, for the past 22 years, enjoyed helping over 6,000 practices educate their clients and share their messages. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Western Illinois University, is a former United States Marine, sits on the board of directors for VetPartners, and is a graduate of the Veterinary Management Institute at Purdue. Bill and his family live in the Chicago suburb of Schererville, IN, where he remains active in the Marine Corps veterans’ community, loves his WORLD CHAMPION Chicago Cubs, and spends way too much time learning about digital marketing!


DR. CEDRIC LAZARUS | Plenary Speaker

Dr Cedric Lazarus is a Jamaican national who graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Veterinary Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, in 1983. He later did post graduate training in animal health and production at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, England.

From 1984 to 2004 he held several positions in the official Veterinary Services in Jamaica, including parish veterinarian for Manchester and later senior veterinary officer in charge of both the veterinary diagnostic laboratory and the national veterinary field service. During this period he represented Jamaica at many international foras and meetings such as the regional meetings of CODEX and the World Animal Health Organization. He also lectured part time in veterinary public health and veterinary pharmacology at the West Indies School of Public Health/University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica.

In 2005 he joined the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Toronto, Canada, where he worked in the food safety inspectorate division for 4 years. After four and a half years with the CFIA he took up a position with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as its first Regional Livestock Development Officer for the Caribbean based in Barbados.

In November 2016 he was transferred to the FAO’s Sub-regional Office for Central America in Panama City, Panama, but he still retains livestock development and animal health responsibilities for the Caribbean region. For the FAO his responsibilities have included providing technical and institutional support to Caribbean countries and advising governments (as well as other stakeholders in agriculture) on issues of importance in agriculture such as sustainable animal production, animal health and livestock policy, animal genetic resource management, food security and safety, One Health and innovation in livestock production.

He represents the FAO on the CaribVET Animal Health Network and sits on both its Steering and Coordinating Committees and for many years was the Chair of the Laboratory Working Group of CaribVET. His special interests include animal health policy, achieving food security, One Health and the application and use of innovation in livestock production. He is a member and past president, vice president and treasurer of the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association and is also a member of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario in Canada where he is registered to practise veterinary medicine. Having grown up on a farm in rural St Catherine in Jamaica, after leaving the FAO, he plans to become a part-time farmer in Jamaica, and possibly in Canada.


AMY NEWFIELD, CVT, VTS (ECC) | Featured Speaker

Amy is currently employed with BluePearl Veterinary Partners as the National Veterinary Technician Training Manager.  In 2003 she became boarded as a Veterinary Technician Specialist in Emergency and Critical Care.  She currently sits on the Academy of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Technicians board as the President.  Amy is well published in over 15 subjects, is an international speaker, has received numerous awards and highly involved in her community. Most recently Amy was awarded the Speaker of the Year at the 2014 NAVC Conference as well as the 2015 Western Veterinary Conference Speaker of the Year. She lives in Massachusetts with her wonderful furry kids.

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BRANDY DARBY, DVM MPH | Featured Speaker

Brandy Darby graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Louisiana State University in 2007. She spent three years in a busy mixed animal practice before transitioning to academia in 2010. At St. Matthew’s University, she has taught a variety of subjects including large animal clinical skills, ethics, communication, anatomy, and surgery. While working full-time, she obtained a Master’s in Public Health from Michigan State University in 2016, with a focus on communicable diseases. Dr. Darby also consults with small ruminant producers on ways to improve animal health.

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DR SARA WHITE | Featured Speaker

Dr. Sara White is a 1998 graduate of NC State University veterinary school, and has worked in shelter medicine and high quality, high volume spay neuter throughout most of her career. Since 2006, Sara has operated Spay ASAP Inc, a nonprofit MASH-style mobile spay/neuter clinic, and has spayed or neutered over 40,000 animals during that time. While working in spay-neuter, Sara noted the work strain many colleagues experienced, which led her to develop an interest in ergonomics, health, well-being, and injury in veterinarians and staff. In 2013, she published Prevalence and Risk Factors Associated with Musculoskeletal Discomfort in Spay and Neuter Veterinarians, and in spring 2015, she completed a Masters of Science in Health Ergonomics from University of Derby (UK). Sara currently serves as President of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association, and lives in on a farm in Vermont with her wife Tina, 4 cats, a large fluffy dog, and two spoiled horses.

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DR STEVE FITZ-COY | Featured Speaker

Steve Fitz-Coy, Ph.D., M.S., is a Senior Technical Services Manager for Merck Animal Health, USA (Poultry Business Unit). Dr. Fitz-Coy earned his BSc from Tuskegee University, USA and both MSc and Ph.D. from Auburn University, USA. In addition, he holds a post-doctoral degree in Avian Coccidiosis from Auburn University. 

Dr. Fitz-Coy formerly worked for ConAgra’s poultry business as a Quality Assurance Manager and live production technical advisor. He was an assistant professor at the University Of Maryland Eastern Shore, USA. Also, he worked in a technical services capacity for both American Cyanamid and Alpharma, Inc.

Dr. Fitz-Coy has authored more than 60 manuscripts and abstracts on various avian diseases. He is the co-author of Avian Coccidiosis in the Diseases of Poultry and author of Parasitic Diseases of Avian Disease Manual. He has offered numerous lectures globally and has collaborated with colleagues in Caribbean, Latin America, South Africa, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America to conduct coccidia control trials. He also has worked with major integrators throughout the world to evaluate enteric health including various anticoccidial programs. Dr. Fitz-Coy is a member of several professional societies, including the American Association of Avian Pathologists, the American Society of Parasitologists and the Poultry Science Association.

DR CHRISTIAN RIPPE | Featured Speaker

Dr. Christian Rippe has been working with Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition since the Vi-COR acquisition in January 2015 as a Business and Technical Service Manager for South America and The Caribbean. In October 2012 started as a Global Dairy Technical Specialist with Vi-COR; in April 2014 he accepted a new position as the South America Regional Business Manager.

He received his Veterinary Medicine degree (DMV) from La Salle University in Bogota, Colombia in 1988 and University Teaching Education degree from Antonio Nariño University in 1999. After his graduation, Dr. Rippe worked in a private practice for 15 years in Colombia, mainly with dairy, dual-purpose cattle and beef. In 1992 he joined La Salle University, in the Large Animal Medicine Department, teaching reproduction and internal medicine until 2000 reaching the status of Assistant Professor. While in Colombia, Dr. Rippe was member of the Colombian Veterinarian and Animal Husbandry Association (ACOVEZ), the Colombian Society of Reproduction Science (SOCOLSIR) and the La Salle University Veterinary Association (MEVESALLE). He participated and assisted in many national and international symposiums, congresses and seminars with topics including reproduction, artificial insemination, embryo transfer, production, bovine and equine medicine. He was as an international consultant for VM Laboratories from 1995 to 1996 in Central and South America; afterwards Dr. Rippe joined the scientific committee of Synthesis Laboratories of Colombia.
In December 2000 he moved with his family to United States. In March 2001 he accepted the Herd Manager position in Williams Farm, located in Milledgeville, Illinois in which he worked for 5 years. In May 2006, he joined the Technical Service Department at ABS Global, Inc. providing dairy consulting in U.S.A., Canada and some European Countries until September 2012. Currently, he is a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP), The National Mastitis Council (NMC), The Dairy Cattle Reproductive Council (DCRC), The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) and The Association of Veterinary Consultants (AVC) and many times judge in the regionals and nationals Dairy Challenges.

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DR GAIL CUNNINGHAM | Featured Speaker

Dr. Gail Cunningham was raised on a mixed farm near Camrose, Alberta, obtained a B.Sc. in Animal Science from the University of Alberta in 1992 and a DVM from WCVM in 1996. She worked in mixed animal practice, primarily in beef and dairy production medicine, until completing a Master of Veterinary Science degree in Epidemiology in 2001 at WCVM. At that time she joined Marshall Swine Health Services in Camrose, Alberta doing exclusively swine practice and contract research. She has her own contract research company, and also  joined Boehringer Ingelheim in 2007 as a technical services veterinarian for swine in Western Canada.  She has a specific interest in quality research and sustainable pork production.  She and her husband also own and operate a fourth generation 2000 acre grain farm near Camrose and have two daughters, aged 13 and 11.


DR RUTH FRANCIS-FLOYD | Featured Speaker

Ruth Francis-Floyd is a professor and extension veterinarian with joint appointments in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (School of Forest Resources and Conservation)at the University of Florida. She is board certified in aquatic animal medicine by the American College of Zoological Medicine, and has been certified as a Fish Pathologist by the American Fisheries Society. She is the past director of Aquatic Animal Health programs for the University of Florida and past-president of the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine. Research interests include diseases of ornamental fish, production aquaculture, and more recently the health of the long-spined sea urchin as a contribution to coral reef restoration efforts. She also has worked with marine mammals and has contributed to research to improve the understanding of cold stress in the Florida manatee.

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DR SUSAN WILLIAMS | Featured Speaker

Dr. Susan Williams graduated from Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1994. She then pursued a PhD in Veterinary Pathology at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine examining the pathogenesis of Avian Leukosis Virus subgroup J in White Leghorn chickens and finished in 2001. She took an academic position at the University of Georgia, Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center, College of Veterinary Medicine and now is a Full Professor in the department of Population Health. Her main duties include serving a section chief of Histology at the PDRC Diagnostic Laboratory and teaching avian histopathology to the Master of Avian Medicine Students and Pathology Residents. She does collaborative research with colleagues in the department and the University along with the poultry industry. She is an active member of the American Association of Avian Pathologists and is a diplomat of the American College of Poultry Veterinarians (2004).  She is married to Dr. Orlando Williams, a small animal veterinarian and they have one son.

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DR. LEACHIM SEMAJ | Plenary Speaker

Dr. Leahcim Semaj is the founder, Chief Ideator and Principal at Above or Beyond (formerly The JobBank), the corporate brand of Leahcim T. Semaj and Company Limited. He is noted among the leading Creative Thinkers, Problem Solvers and Motivational Speakers in the Caribbean. This Psychologist combines ancient wisdom with contemporary ‘livity’ to bring fresh insight to old human problems. The Jamaica Employers’ Federation has recognized Dr. Semaj for “Leadership in Innovative Workplace Practices”. He is included in Peter Ferguson’s publication CHANGE MAKERS as one of the 101 men who have helped to define modern day Jamaica. Dr. Semaj is a graduate of Kingston College (Jamaica). He has a B.A. cum laude (1974) from City College of New York, M.Sc. (1976) & PhD (1978) from Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey and Pre & Post-Doctoral Fellowships from Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey. He has held teaching and research posts at Rutgers and at Cornell University (USA), at the University of the West Indies and The College of Agriculture in Jamaica. He has been involved in Jamaican media as a newspaper columnist for all the major publications and hosted a variety of radio and TV programmes. Presently, he is the co-producer and co-host of Food for Thought on Television Jamaica.

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DR LESLIE HANCOCK | Featured speaker

Dr. Leslie Hancock is a 2001 graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. After 10 years in clinical small animal practice and surgery, she completed a Clinical Nutrition Residency and Post-Doctorate at the University of California Davis (2011). Since 2011 she has worked as a formulation support scientist and corporate veterinarian for multiple pet food companies ensuring foods and treats are safe and healthy. Her hobbies include outdoor sports, horse riding, and farming with her daughter.

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DR JONATHON WHITE } Featured Speaker

Dr. Jonathan White is a lecturer in Equine Surgery at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus. Dr. White has a keen interest in the Thoroughbred industry and specifically the management of orthopaedic and airway conditions affecting performance.

Having graduating with commendation from the University of Glasgow he completed an eighteen month equine internship in Newbury, England followed by a residency in equine surgery at the University of Glasgow. During his residency he completed a Masters in Veterinary Medicine evaluating the precision and accuracy of software designed to make objective measurements of conformation in the horse. During this time, Dr. White also completed his RCVS Certificate in Equine Surgery. He is a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Dr. White also spent an additional year as a large animal surgery resident at the University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton Center. He is currently enrolled as an Alternate Resident with the European College of Veterinary Surgeons and spends time every year operating in Newbury and Newmarket, UK.

Dr. White is passionate about increasing the level of equine veterinary care in the Caribbean and has increased the surgical caseload and capabilities at the University of the West Indies including performing the first successful colic surgery performed at the University. Dr. White's areas of interest are in minimally invasive techniques (arthroscopy and laparoscopy), fracture repair, upper airway and abdominal surgery. Dr. White is currently designing a research project to evaluate the prevalence and incidence of musculoskeletal injuries in the Thoroughbred racing population in Trinidad.