American Association of Feline Practitioners

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AAFP Student Stories

June 26, 2023 

Outstanding Senior Award Recipients

Get ready to meet some all-star seniors! Every Spring, the AAFP awards an outstanding senior from AVMA-accredited veterinary schools across North America and the West Indies. The awardee, nominated by their school, receives a certificate and a complimentary Recent Graduate Membership to the AAFP. Read on to learn more!


Mabel Nereida Redondo
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Mabel is a 2023 graduate of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. From a young age she has had a natural affinity toward cats, but was inspired to pursue veterinary medicine after rescuing and providing care for her first cat, Kitty. Within feline medicine, Mabel’s particular interests include internal medicine, cardiology, and dentistry.

Mabel will be moving to Connecticut with her two senior cats, Kitty and Alice. She will be starting at a feline practice in western Connecticut in the fall and is looking forward to joining the wonderful community of feline veterinarians.


Thamires Nunes
Ohio State University

Thamires Nunes never grew up with pets. In fact, she was afraid of dogs for most of her childhood. That all changed in high school when a neighbor left their cat behind after moving out – and after much pleading and begging, “Jovi” (named after Bon Jovi of course) was welcomed into her home. Her passion and dedication to veterinary medicine feverishly grew, and “Jovi” was the star in several college applications, scholarship essays, research papers, and stories. He was a nasty FIV + tomcat with a desire to hunt and kill despite Thamires’ desperate attempts at making him an indoor cat. As he got older and sicker, he became sweeter and more affectionate. His mission in life was to get Thamires to vet school, and he made it all the way to Ohio State and gave her just enough time to get me settled in and comfortable before his nasal adenocarcinoma won its battle. Jovi taught Thamires so much – especially the superiority of the feline species. They are affectionate, smart, evolutionary superstars, and have an immense desire to live. Five days after Jovi passed away, Thamires adopted another cat, “Niko” who unlike his late brother, was raised indoors and whose biggest enemies are the laser pointer, the treat dispenser, and bottle caps. His separation anxiety was later cured by the addition of “Koda,” a fat, orange, marshmallow of a cat who wants nothing more than food and love. After graduation, Thamires will be working as an emergency doctor, where she will unblock all the kitties, teach clients all about feline heart disease and hepatic lipidosis, and be an advocate for the species she loves.

Shelby Young (left) pictured with Dr. Hilari French (right).

Shelby Young
Ross University

Shelby Young is a fourth year Ross University veterinary student, currently finishing her clinical year at Texas A&M. From a young age, Shelby has been captivated by the clever, affectionate, and unique personalities of cats. These magnificent creatures have always held a special place in her heart, igniting a profound desire to work closely with them in the field of veterinary medicine. Throughout the years she has been passionate with Fear Free handling and promoting this among her peers – she was President of the Feline Friendly Practitioners club as well as an active member of the TNR Club while living on the island of St. Kitts. This fall, Shelby will officially start her career as an Associate Veterinarian at a Small Animal GP/ER in Oregon! With a comprehensive understanding of the specific needs and behaviors of feline patients, Shelby is committed to providing exceptional care and support to cats and their loving owners. She will be making the big move along with her four beloved cats, her two crazy dogs, and her incredibly supportive fiancé.


Yvonne White
St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine

Yvonne White is a senior graduating from St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grenada, West Indies. While on the island of Grenada, Yvonne became involved with the Feral Cat Project, a student-run trap-neuter-return program for Grenada’s wild felines. She realized her strong interest in being an advocate for and dedicating her time to underserved cats, from feral cats to owned cats and everything in between. Through the program, Yvonne was able to ensure these felines on the island were getting the proper medical care they needed. During her vet school career, Yvonne developed a strong passion for shelter medicine and decided she wanted to be able to continue serving the underserved population. To accomplish this, Yvonne will be working as a shelter veterinarian on the central coast of California after graduation. Her special interests include surgery, pain management, and internal medicine cases, specifically those regarding autoimmune diseases. Yvonne is married to her college sweetheart, Austin, whom she met while studying animal science at Iowa State University. They share two cats, Ophie and Bastet, as well as two dogs, Kota and Pippa.

Dr. Johanna Heseltine (left) presents the Outstanding Senior Award to Kathryn Biehl.

Kathryn Biehl
Texas A&M University

After receiving her DVM from Texas A&M University, Kathryn Biehl going to the University of Georgia for a Small Animal Rotating Internship, with the goal to become a surgeon. She spent a large amount of her childhood on my grandparent’s farm in rural Kansas and instantly fell in love with all animals. She spent hours with all of the barn cats and helped nurse kittens whose mothers had disappeared. She is excited for her future as a veterinarian and the opportunity to continue to help all of the felines in the world.


Ashley Hadala
University of Calgary

Ashley Hadala was born and raised in Calgary, AB where she completed both her Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM Class of 2023) with distinction. Small animal surgery is her passion, and she will be pursuing her rotating internship at The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York. The misunderstanding and under-appreciation many have for feline patients and their behavior motivated a specific interest in improving their welfare, both in and out of the hospital setting. Fear, anxiety, and stress that cats experience when visiting the veterinarian are often dismissed when these patients deserve the same amount of empathy and attention as every other animal. The individualistic approach to dealing with feline patients is something she appreciates for her own special orange tabby cat, Bodhi. Ashley’s goal for her career is to continue being an advocate for the well-being of her patients, and better recognize pain and discomfort in felines particularly post-operatively. In addition, she aims to continue to contribute to feline-based literature and case studies where currently available evidence is most heavily based in other species.


Em Adam
University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine

Em Adam (they/them) is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Em has seven lovely cats of their own, each with a unique personality. They've always loved working with and caring for animals of all species, but growing up with many cats at home gave Em a special love for any and all feline patients. Watching the care the cats received from their local veterinarian growing up allowed Em to see all the possibilities within feline and veterinary medicine. After starting veterinary school, Em developed a strong affinity for clinical pathology, knowing that they wanted to pursue that aspect of veterinary medicine in the future. Em is excited to be able to help felines and all other species from the clinical pathology aspect in the future! After graduation, Em plans to start their clinical pathology residency at Purdue University this summer … and may even find a few more feline companions along the way.


Carley Allen
University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine

Carley Allen is a recent graduate from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. She grew up on my grandparents' farm in Northwest Arkansas where she gained a passion and great appreciation for animals through production, exhibition, and companionship. In the coming year, Carley plans to put her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health to use as a Small Animal Intern at the St. Louis Cat Clinic in St. Louis, MO. Feline medicine allows her to continue pursing her passion for research and the One Health initiative, while serving cats and their loving families within her community. Carley currently has two deaf cats named Molly and Nimbus, and said that their unending love and cuddles made surviving a worldwide pandemic and completing veterinary school possible.


Bailey Patillo
University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine

Bailey Patillo will enter the field of veterinary medicine as a general practitioner at the Michigan City Animal Hospital in Michigan City, IN. She is excited to start on this new journey and plans to strive to always provide the best care for all of her patients.


Kendra Thomas
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Kendra Thomas was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ and plans to return there after graduating from Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has been working with cats in a feline-only practice since she was 15 years old. Caring for cats and advocating for their care is extremely important to her and she looks forward to continuing to advance her knowledge of feline medicine after graduation. She will be working at a small animal general practice in Scottsdale as the practice's go-to cat guru. Eventually she plans to start a feline-only practice in the Scottsdale area.


November 16, 2022 

MSU Feline E-board Members Volunteer at 2022 AAFP Annual Conference

Michigan State University's Feline Club E-board members traveled to Pittsburgh to volunteer at the 2022 AAFP Annual Conference. Read on to learn about their experience volunteering and attending a professional event!

Stephanie Monterroso Stoekl (2024): Feline medicine has become a huge passion of mine. Being the outgoing president of our Michigan State University Feline Club, it was my goal before I transitioned into the clinical phase of my curriculum, to bring some members of the Feline Club executive board to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Conference. Luckily the AAwasere looking for student volunteers and I jumped at the opportunity. I arranged for 5 of our MSU Feline Club E-board members to sign-up and attend. During this 4-day conference, I learned a tremendous amount about feline medicine and was able to network. I felt at home with my fellow feline-oriented professionals. I also had the pleasure of meeting one of the feline diplomats I will be externing with next year. It was a great opportunity to meet her in person as she is a huge inspiration to me. Before the conference, I debated whether I would go the residency route to become boarded in feline medicine. However, this conference along with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) booth, presentations, and speaking with one of my future mentors made me realize that I am going to pursue the residency route. I, unfortunately, can't make it to the conference next year due to being preoccupied with clinics, but I will definitely be returning when I am a veterinarian in 2024 and beyond. I am nervous but excited for my journey ahead. Thank you again to the AAFP team for allowing us to volunteer and attend this conference, as it was life-changing for me!

Ashley Kimmel (2024): I very much enjoyed the AAFP conference. Volunteering offered a unique opportunity to connect with some members and offered a conversation starter during the networking events. Helping with the lunch and learning offered me one-on-one time with the speaker to network, ask questions, and offer support if needed. As a current student, opportunities like these are incredibly valuable and educated me about different career opportunities.

Karla Zabala Amon (2025): I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the AAFP conference as a volunteer this year. It was a validating experience to be surrounded by veterinary professionals that are working towards improving both the psychological and physical health of our feline patients. Many of the lectures touched on how feline-friendly handling affects diagnostics and treatment, and I will definitely be using some of these considerations when I enter into practice! I also really enjoyed getting to know and network with the exhibitioners to learn about upcoming externship opportunities and get a preview into the technologies that will be more available by the time we graduate! I was particularly excited about the advances in both feline pain recognition and management. truly appreciate this opportunity and cannot wait to attend more AAFP conferences in the future.

Samantha Ziomek (2025): This was my first veterinary conference of my career, and it was thrilling! Peeking behind the scenes through working the registration desk and speaking to employees provided an interesting insight into the logistics of running a conference. It was also a great way to make a friendly connection with professionals I later spoke with during refreshment breaks and networking hours. I met wonderfully passionate DVMs who I aspire to be similar to and who connected me to possible externship experiences. I left AAFP feeling eager to continue my classroom learning, re-invigorated for my future as a feline practitioner, and with new resources to refer to throughout my career!

Crystal Chang (2025): My time volunteering at the AAFP Conference has been an amazing experience. It was rewarding for me to be able to contribute to a field of veterinary medicine I am passionate about by attending so many insightful lectures about feline medicine from outstanding speakers who are experts in the field, networking with the companies at the booths and with all the other attendees that were just as passionate about cats as I am. I also made a friend who was a veterinary student in Canada and was even able to reconnect with a veterinarian I worked for years ago while checking them in at the registration desk! I am very grateful to have been able to volunteer for the AAFP conference and for this wonderful opportunity. I hope to come back in the future to volunteer and experience it all over again!


June 23, 2022 

Supporting Cats and Clients in Greece

Ashley Walker, University of Minnesota (2022)

Let's Be S.M.A.R.T is a shelter and rescue organization that aims to address Greece's profound overpopulation of feral cats. The organization provides veterinary care to injured and ill feral cats, finds homes for adoptable cats rescued from harsh conditions, and educates the public (children and adults) on the importance of animal welfare and how it impacts the environment and human safety.

Through their formal internship program, I visited three different veterinary clinics of varying economic status and capabilities. I was also able to experience their unique open-concept free-roam shelter and foster home, where more critical cases were housed and cared for.

My role with the organization was providing socialization to adoptable cats, assisting with treatments of foster care cats via medicating, inserting microchips, vaccinating and observation, performing sterilizations on feral cats, and assisting with the release of feral cats to their respective colonies.

I benefited greatly from this internship because I gained crucial hands-on learning and improved my communication skills by bridging the language barrier between veterinarians and clients—I enjoyed teaching the veterinarians I worked with as much as I enjoyed learning from them.

These skills will be crucial to my future career goals of becoming a feline-only practitioner and eventually obtaining my feline medicine board certification. Not only did I see primarily feline patients on this rotation, but I also had the opportunity to think outside the box and work with very limited resources and finances, which is critical in primary care, where many clients will struggle with these limitations as well.

I also see how I may utilize my interest in feline medicine to improve the lives of feral cat populations, which is yet another way to assist people in a more indirect, one-health mindset that is just as important as owned pets.

This rotation was truly a wonderful learning experience since it gave me a unique opportunity to compare veterinary medicine in Greece to the United States. In some ways, we were very different, yet in other ways, we were very similar. Being a part of this organization has given me perspective on what is truly important when it comes to patient care: addressing client needs, finding solutions for feral populations, and caring for shelter animals.

Care for animals and the people who interact with them is a universal creed. We are all doing our best with what we have and what is realistic for the patient and client alike. I believe other veterinary students and professionals would benefit from this experience similarly, seeing that veterinary medicine is not an all-or-nothing service. Challenging yourself to work with limitations of budget, equipment, feral patients, and a language barrier will only make you a better and more well-rounded veterinarian in your own career.

I loved the opportunity to teach, learn, and exchange veterinary knowledge with others who shared my similar passions. I will cherish this experience forever and hope to continue making a difference in the lives of animals and people alike, both here and globally.

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AAFP Student Stories shares and celebrates the successes of student members who are passionate about feline care.