Please review the information below for each of our current nominees to fill three vacant positions on our Board.  A separate email will be sent to you via MailChimp for you to vote for your three choices.  Our seven nominees are listed alphabetically.


Dr. Heather DiGiacomo is a 2005 graduate of Penn Vet. In 2016 she opened Newtown Square Veterinary Hospital in suburban Philadelphia. Prior to opening this start up, she tried for five years to buy an existing veterinary hospital but was consistently outbid by veterinary corporations. She realized quickly how individual veterinarians were being made obsolete and wanted to build a practice where patients and clients were treated as individuals, not numbers.

“We have been wildly successful with our mission, and I want other veterinarians to know that they can be successful practice owners and compete against the corporate entities. NSVH has been an independent vet before the IVPA was founded, and we are so thrilled to be members of this organization.”


Dr. Suzanne (Suzy) Magruder is the owner of Saybrook Veterinary Hospital in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She and her husband, Scott, purchased the practice in 2013. It has been a privately owned, small animal practice since 1946.

Suzy grew up in the Midwest and is a 1996 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. She then completed an one year internship in medicine and surgery at Michigan Veterinary Specialists in Southfield, Michigan.  She was an associate in small animal practices in Indiana and Connecticut before purchasing her own practice.

Suzy is a member of the AVMA, Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and her county VMA. She was on the CVMA board of directors for almost 10 years and served as its President in 2016-2017.  She continues to be active with her state and local VMAs. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, boating and gardening. She lives with her very spoiled Havanese “Dexter” and her three-legged cat “Peggy”.

“I see a real advantage to being a privately owned veterinary practice in this current pandemic. I feel we have had a very fluid response and have adapted very quickly to the changing guidelines instituted by our state and local government. We have been able to listen to our employees’ concerns and fears and change our operations accordingly.”


Dr. Jeanna Montgomery is the owner of Preston Center Animal Clinic in Dallas, Texas. She is a graduate of the Texas A&M College of Vet Med Class of 2006. Prior to owning her clinic, she spent two years with VCA and six years with Banfield. Working for corporate entities taught her a lot about business, human resources, and practice efficiency. Practicing in both environments gives her a unique perspective to offer fellow independent practice owners.

“The independent practitioner is the heart of our profession, and I would be honored to advocate for our sustainability and continued success. Veterinary practices are sought after by companies with deep pockets, and this creates challenges for us. They see that veterinary practices are profitable, recession resistant, and that pet families will continue to spend on care for their pets. As independent practice owners, we form bonds and relationships with the pet families. We do right by them because they are our neighbors and friends. As small and local businesses, we also form close relationships with our team members. These relationships and care ethic can be lost in the world of the mega companies.”

“I see three key opportunities to bolster the independent practice owner: 1. Promote the independent practice. Clients will seek practices specifically because they are independently owned. 2. Mutual support and information sharing to stay competitive, efficient, and profitable. 3. Educate veterinary students and new grads about independently owned practices. Teach them about the opportunity, freedoms and possibilities that come with practice ownership so they too might see independent practice ownership as their future.

“My husband of 10 years, 2 young daughters, 4 dogs, 1 cat and 1 hedgehog agreed to share me with this group because they know how much this profession and group of amazing, magical and hard-working people means to me.”


Dr. Jeffrey Powers earned his veterinary degree with Honors from Michigan State University in 1980, then began his clinical practice working predominantly in dairy and equine practice. He founded South Sanilac Veterinary Hospital in 1983 and has practiced in both large and small animal practices ever since.

He is currently the owner of Veterinary Clinics North that has two offices in Michigan.  Dr. Powers was President of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association in 1997 and has served on numerous MVMA and AVMA Committees and Councils. Jeff is currently the Chairman of the AVMA’s Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents.  He additionally provides veterinary services to Mackinac Island and the Carriage Horses and Small Animals on the Island.

“The role of the independent veterinary practitioner in today’s society is more critical than ever.  Independent Veterinarians, the core of our profession, face challenges from running a successful practice, competition from corporate veterinary medicine, while serving on the front lines of societal need.  As a member and leader of AVMA‘s COBTA  I have provided a voice of the independent veterinarian for the last six years.  It is critical that the representation of the independent veterinary practitioner become louder, especially in these challenging times.  I will work to provide that voice.”


Dr. Paula Rode has been a practice owner for 25 years and really values being able to make the decisions about how to practice medicine and manage a hospital on a day to day basis. She is owner of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Chelsea, Michigan.  “As I look at the field these days I am concerned about the growing influence of corporate practice and feel strongly that independent practitioners need to work together to gain some of the opportunities afforded larger practices, and also leverage that coalition to have a stronger voice in our national organization.”

Dr. Rode is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the AVMA Trust and has been since the PLIT and AVMA Life Trusts merged two years ago.  Previously she was an AVMA Life trustee for eight years.  She notes that the national practices have really challenged the AVMA and the Trust to offer benefit to their employed veterinarians.  “The AVMA has had to work hard to maintain membership and show value to the corporate entities who have to look at every dollar spent to please the venture capitalists.  My concern is the potential to dilute the value of veterinary medicine and the human animal bond, which we hold so dear in our profession.”

Paula has also served on her state association (Michigan Veterinary Medical Association) as a board member, then member of the executive committee and eventually President of the association.  Outside of veterinary medicine she has also served her community in the Rotary Club, local education foundation, and local hospital board member and eventual chairman.


Hailing from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Dr. Jill Stetz received her B.S. in biology and natural sciences from Muhlenberg College and then graduated from University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1994.

Since graduation, Dr. Stetz worked at multi-doctor small animal practices prior to purchasing Narberth Animal Hospital In Narberth, PA in 2005 after working there for 7 years. Dr. Stetz is a member of AVMA and serves on the American Board of Veterinary Specialties.

“Being a solo independent practitioner brings many responsibilities, joys and challenges. It is vital that the independent veterinary practices have the resources, support and opportunities in facing the many challenges in our veterinary profession—especially those unique to the independent practice—while establishing and maintaining the vital importance of our position in our local communities. We also need to invest in the future of the profession including inspiring, mentoring and working with new graduates, current and prospective veterinary students to ensure that all are aware of the benefits and opportunities of an independent veterinary practice.”

Dr. Stetz has seen the impact of animals on human lives through her experiences with her 2 giant schnauzer therapy dogs. She also serves on Muhlenberg College’s Alumni Board.


Dr. Justin Toth is a 1997 graduate of Auburn University. He founded Dallas Highway Animal Hospital in Powder Springs, Georgia, in 2001. He currently serves as the President of the Cobb County VMA and is the President-elect of the Georgia VMA. He also serves as a member of the Cobb County Animal Services Board, and he is an AVMA Alternate Delegate representing Georgia. He is a Board member of the AVMA State Advocacy Committee.

“As independent practitioners, it is our responsibility to show our colleagues the advantages of business ownership. I believe that this message is best communicated via a multifaceted approach, including effective exit strategies, practical buy-in tactics, powerful group purchasing organizations, and a unique branding to separate the independent practitioner from the large corporations.”