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1401 W. Webster Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

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Veterinarians of Family Pet Animal Hospital

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FAMILY PET CHICAGO - VETERINARIANS

Meet Our Veterinarians

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Rae Ann Van Pelt, DVM

Dr. Rae Ann Van Pelt Image

Dr. Van Pelt, who co-founded Family Pet Animal Hospital in 1990, graduated with honors from the University of Illinois' College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987. She opened this practice with the goal of providing the highest quality veterinary care, which demands professionalism, compassion, and a personal touch from all of us at Family Pet. Additionally, served on the board of directors for the Chicago Emergency and Specialty Center (now MedVet Chicago) as Vice President and subsequently as President from 2002 until 2015 to ensure our patients had the best specialty and emergency care available to them.

What made you want to become a vet?
In second grade my teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I replied that I wanted to be a veterinarian she told me that I would change my mind. I was a determined child and I took it as a challenge. When I reflect, I am grateful that I love my career so much and did not err out of stubbornness. In school I was drawn to the sciences and medicine was the obvious choice. I prefer veterinary medicine to human medicine because we focus on the well being of the entire patient and not just one organ system.

What has been your most rewarding moment as a veterinarian?
Every time I send a patient home healthy I find my career rewarding. I always call my clients after a serious procedure on their pet, or late at night if there is a turn for the better, or too early in the morning if there is good news, because I find it rewarding to relay my excitement and concern for their pet and to hear the relief or joy in the owner’s voice.

After practicing for 25 years, I find it equally rewarding to help younger veterinarians better understand test results or a disease and to pass on the art and nuances of veterinary medicine I have picked up over the years. You can be well-educated, but it takes time to truly assess a patient and apply the diagnostic results to come to the correct diagnosis. I love when I see it click in a new veterinarian’s mind.

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
I am told I should go into interior design, but I know I have my own style and would probably not accommodate to another person’s style. Besides, I get too excited when I see medical shows on television and catch the director’s mistakes or learn about a new procedure or concept in human medicine and try to incorporate it into my veterinary knowledge.

What animal scares you more than any other?
Snakes! I have tried to overcome this by handling them, but I cannot predict their movements or understand how they are able to move without feet. This frightens me.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Professionally, starting Family Pet Animal Hospital with Dr Marla Minuskin (and now continuing with Dr Jane Lohmar.) Our personalities are so different, but we respect those differences and each other’s medicine. I feel we have created an atmosphere that reflects the best of each of our personalities and drive. As president of the board of Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center (Recently acquired by MedVet Chicago in 2015), I am seeing a long time dream of mine finally come to fruition as we have established and continue to expand this important resource for clients and veterinarians. Personally, adopting and raising my children with my husband, Bob.

What do you like to do with your spare time?
I am short on spare time between working and my family. I love to be active (tennis, pilates, working out) so it is great when I can exercise with my kids. My daughter and I will sometimes go on a morning run. When she is tired, we walk and talk and I love to hear how grown up she has become. Otherwise, put me on a boat! I love the water – It relaxes me.

What do you see as the greatest danger toward household pets?
There are so many pet experts offering advice on all areas from nutrition to training to health care. I feel the industry needs more accreditation programs so that the average pet owner can knowledgeably select whose advice to follow.

What is the most exotic animal you have treated?
I once treated a pet opossum for kidney failure and a Vietnamese potbelly pig for intestinal upset from an apple pie.

What is your favorite comfort food?
I was recently put on a wheat-reduced diet so my favorites had to change. Dark chocolate covered raisins and milk chocolate strawberries are my new stress relievers.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Laziness. I cannot understand why some people don’t want to experience more out of life.

Name 5 things people might be surprised to know about you:

  1. I’m on a wheat-reduced diet
  2. I’m allergic to cats and rabbits
  3. I’ve gone skydiving and bungee jumping
  4. I can’t whistle
  5. My first job was selling shoes at Wiebolt’s
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Jane Lohmar, DVM

Dr. Jane Lohmar Image

Dr. Lohmar graduated with high honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995, and began practicing here as an associate veterinarian in 1997. Dr Jane is one of the pillars of Family Pet’s practice, and we were both proud and grateful to welcome her as a partner in 2011.

What made you want to become a vet?
Being a banker for 11 years just wasn’t cutting it for me. I loved the people I worked with (yes, bankers can be lovable!) but got no charge out of what I was doing. I had done extensive volunteering in the wildlife and zoo fields, and knew that broadly I wanted to work with animals. A good friend asked me what I would do if there were no obstacles, and “Be a vet” just popped out of my mouth. (Thank you, Steve!)

How did you find yourself at Family Pet?
I had volunteered at an animal hospital with my friend Darrin, but when he moved to Seattle to become one of the vets at the Woodland Park Zoo, he suggested I call Family Pet. At the time, it had been opened only a short while, and when I spoke to Marla about volunteering, she answered that she wouldn’t know what to do with a volunteer! I persisted and later landed a volunteer spot before I went to vet school, then kept coming back during school. At graduation, Family Pet didn’t have room for another vet, so I worked at another hospital for 2 years until a spot opened up. (Two VERY LONG years, I might add.)

Did you study anything besides veterinary medicine in school?
I was an economics major in undergrad, and had virtually no science in my background, so I had to go back to school to take biology, chemistry, physics, etc. before I could apply to vet school.

What are the most common questions you answer as a practicing veterinarian?

What do you see as the greatest danger toward household pets?
Inattention. By whom? Owners, veterinarians, day care supervisors, dog park visitors, pet sitters We’re all responsible for the safety and health of our companion animals.

What animal scares you more than any other?
Hands down, crocodiles. A number of years ago I was on a research expedition in Brazil, and while paddling a canoe down a river, I was surrounded by stealthy crocs. I froze and it was one of the few times in my life I truly felt panicked.

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
I would love to be an editor. I’m not very creative, but I can usually take what someone else has written and make it better. In my fantasy world, though, I would be a Supreme Court Justice, but without the need for congressional approval.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Making sure that every year is better than the last.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reading (I’m on my fifth or sixth read of A Son of the Circus right now); gardening, although it always gets the best of me; Pilates (thank you Frog Temple for giving me the only exercise I have ever stuck with); watching HGTV; and making my pets happy, which gives me the most happiness in the world.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Costa Rica. It’s got everything I love.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Chicken Pot Pies from 404 Wine Bar.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Drivers who think the yellow light means to speed up. When did they stop teaching that it is illegal to enter an intersection when the light is yellow? That behavior is rude, dangerous and, most of all, arrogant. So I guess that, truthfully, the answer is “arrogance.”

Who are your heroes?
This is the easiest question of all: Jane Goodall.

Name 5 things that people might be surprised to know about you:
Since I wear my heart on my sleeve, I can’t imagine there’s anything that’s not known about me. But here goes:

  1. I lived in the jungles of Borneo for 6 months, at an orangutan research facility.
  2. OK, that’s all I can think of.

What is your favorite quotation?
“No man made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little” I have no idea who said that, but it has always resonated with me.

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Amy Ujiki, DVM

Dr. Amy Ujiki Image

Dr. Ujiki graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine after completing her clinical year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006. She joined Family Pet in 1994 as a technician while still in high school, and continued working here during her summer and winter vacations while completing her undergraduate degree in New York. We eagerly welcomed Dr Amy as an associate veterinarian as soon as she graduated from vet school! Because she has been present for and contributed so much to the rich history of Family Pet, we were excited to welcome her as a managing partner of the practice in 2016.

What made you want to become a vet?
I couldn’t imagine working without animals in my life and I come from a medical family which made veterinary medicine the perfect career choice for me.

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
I would either own my own flower shop or search for a career that would allow me to travel the world.

What animal scares you more than any other?
All insects big or small…even ladybugs!

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment (personal or professional)?
Fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian and my relationship with my husband who is also a veterinarian.

How did you find yourself at Family Pet?
I started at Family Pet as a high school volunteer and immediately fell in love with the hospital and all of the patients. The people at Family Pet became a second family to me and I feel privileged to be a part of such a special practice.

What do you like to do with your spare time?
I enjoy golf, movies, knitting, cooking, gardening, (and silly reality shows are a guilty pleasure).

What is the most exotic animal you have treated?
I’ve worked on a lynx, capuchin monkey and a camel.

What do you see as the greatest danger toward household pets?
Obesity has become a growing problem in veterinary medicine (no pun intended).

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere and everywhere…I love to travel. Some favorites include: Sydney, Sienna, Paris, and St. Barths.

What was your minor in college?
Major: Environmental Science. Minor: Religion

What is your favorite comfort food?
Pretty much all food makes me happy.

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Lynn Lewin, VMD

Dr. Lynn Lewin Image

Dr. Lewin graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009, after her first career as a biomechanical engineer (BS Biological Engineering, Cornell University College of Engineering, 2000.) She completed a veterinary externship at Guide Dogs for the Blind in Northern California, along with extra orthopedic rotations and research in hip dysplasia, prior to also completing a veterinary externship here at Family Pet. When we heard that Dr Lynn was coming back to Chicago after completing school, we sought her out and hired her immediately!

What made you want to become a vet?
I have always wanted to feel passionate about my career. Early on, veterinary medicine held an allure for me, but it wasn’t the academic path I originally chose. After graduating from Cornell University and working as an engineer for five years, I decided to start volunteering at an animal hospital in Princeton, NJ after work. As soon as I started there, I knew it was the perfect fit. Even though most nights I was really tired from a full day at work, I always looked forward to getting to the vet practice, and felt rejuvenated the minute I entered the building. I noticed that especially after my most stressful work days, as soon as I saw my first animal for the evening, I would be immediately soothed. Veterinary medicine is such an amazingly warm field - I love helping not only the animals but, just as importantly, the people who love them.

How did you find yourself at Family Pet?
My husband is from Chicago and after meeting him during undergrad, I kept him on the east coast for 13 years! But along the way I made a deal that once I graduated from vet school, we could move back “home” to his favorite city. Since I didn't know the vet practices in the Chicago area, I turned to his friends and family for advice, as I wanted to be affiliated with a practice that has an excellent reputation. Family Pet came up over and over again. I did an “externship” at Family Pet during my final year of vet school for two weeks and immediately fell in love with the vets, the staff, the clients and the patients! I couldn't believe how many hugs were given in the exam room – and how many sloppy kisses were received - and I knew that it would be the perfect place for me. When I got the call from Rae Ann that there was an opportunity opening up, I felt happier than the day that I found out I had been accepted into veterinary school.

Did you study anything besides veterinary medicine in school?
I graduated from Cornell University with a major in biological engineering and a minor in mechanical engineering. I had a special interest in biomechanics, and conducted research on canine hip dysplasia and on surgical suture materials. This interest continued on while I was in vet school, and since I loved orthopedics, I took extra clinical rotations in it.

If you weren’t a veterinarian, what would you do?
Own a winery with my husband. We've both looked into a program at UC Davis in viticulture & enology. I've always secretly wanted to be a farmer and adding wine to the mix would be perfect.

What do you see as the greatest danger toward household pets?
Being unwanted is at the top of that list. Although it is improving, too many people still buy a pet impulsively, before thinking everything through. They don’t always understand the extent of the responsibility they will have, and as the adorable puppy or kitten starts to grow, they are ill-prepared for what will be expected of them. The other discouraging situation is that so many people still don't spay or neuter their animals. Pet overpopulation is the saddest part of veterinary medicine.

What animal scares you more than any other?
Mice - we had them in our kitchen in Philadelphia and every time I would see one I would scream for my husband and jump up on the kitchen chair. My husband would always respond with..."aren't you a vet?!?!?"

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
My three children. I had my daughter Ali during my second year of vet school. In order to stay with my class, I didn't take any time off. I continued to study, even in the hospital right after I delivered her! Looking back on it now, I know it was crazy, but having her provided me with such a different perspective while I was in school. I don't know that I would have made it through without being inspired by her. Our son Kai was born in July 2009, which meant I was pregnant through most of my clinical rotations. It was tiring, but both of them empower me to feel like I can accomplish anything. Clearly I'm always looking to challenge myself, so in June of 2012, my third child Joy was born.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Eat good food, drink good wine and microbrews with my husband. Play at the park with my kids and snuggle in bed with my dog Philly. I also enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and biking.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Cookie Bouquets - there's just something about an inch of colored sugar on top of a sugar cookie that makes me so happy!!! I also love the darkest chocolate I can find topped with natural peanut butter.

Name 5 things that people might be surprised to know about you:

  1. I was captain of the ski team in college.
  2. Other than taking home the class bunny occasionally and raising a Seeing Eye Puppy for a year in high school, I never had any pets growing up!!
  3. I am a champion thumb-wrestler (although I'm not sure where the talent comes from).
  4. I've had four knee surgeries - all from soccer and ski racing injuries.
  5. I’m Greek – my maiden name is Aridgides.

What is your favorite quotation?
"Where there is a will, there is a way". I got this in a fortune cookie when I was deciding on applying to vet school and I have kept it in my wallet since then. It is very worn, but is still there!!

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Ken Goldrick, DVM

Dr. Ken Goldrick Image

Dr. Goldrick graduated in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison. In 2012, after he spent a day here at FPAH for a working interview and everyone got to talk with him, we knew he was just the doctor Family Pet was looking for and we welcomed him onto our team.

What made you want to become a vet?
My journey to becoming a veterinarian did not start out like many others. When I was young, my career aspirations did not center on veterinary medicine, but rather on becoming a Hollywood stuntman. While in high school I developed an affinity for the sciences and actually thought about pediatrics – animals and children are very similar – they can’t talk to us, they are under the care of someone else and they vomit/have accidents when they don’t feel well. My love of animals and problem solving really propelled me toward veterinary medicine – I have loved my job every day since! Although some days I do still think about being a stuntman.

Have you practiced anywhere besides Family Pet?
Yes, I worked as a mixed animal veterinarian in Appleton, WI – a wonderful experience in all things four legged and furry! I have also practiced just outside Chicago in River Forest.

Did you study anything besides veterinary medicine in school?
I double majored in Animal Science and Biological Science during my time as an undergraduate at the University of Vermont.

What are the most common questions you answer as a practicing veterinarian?

  1. How big will my puppy be when he/she grows up?
  2. What kind of pets do you have?
  3. What is the best food to feed?

What do you see as the greatest danger toward household pets?
Obesity – it is so important to keep pets at an ideal weight. 54% of pets in the United States are considered obese – weight control can decrease the risks of metabolic and orthopedic diseases. The other big risk is dental disease – the advancement in veterinary dentistry over the last decade allows for early detection and treatment of many diseases, increasing pets’ quality of life and preventing the development of severe oral disease.

What has been your most rewarding moment as a veterinarian?
One moment does not stand out but one of my favorite things has been being called out to a farm to aid in the delivery of a calf during an abnormal birth. After pulling out a live baby calf and watching the mother lick it clean, I drove home watching the sun rise.

What animal scares you more than any other?
Snakes.

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
Teacher – I love sharing knowledge and presenting it in a fun way! Engineer – Being presented with a problem and having to seek out a solution is one of the major reasons why I became a veterinarian. Although not working with animals, problem solving is something I actually enjoy and engineering has always been fascinating to me!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am a very active person and love competing in the sport of triathlon. – so in the warmer months that means I can be found running around Chicago, seated on my bike or getting a swim in at a pool or in Lake Michigan.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Believe it or not, I have never really taken a vacation. However if travel is involved, I do love going back home to Vermont whenever possible – chance to see mountains again is always welcome!

What is your favorite comfort food?
The Red Onion sandwich from Red Onion café in Burlington, VT, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Maple syrup, Bagels – quite the combination!

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Like many other people bad drivers and people who have no regard for animal welfare or the environment.

Who are your heroes?
Without question, my parents – they are still changing my life today.

Name 5 things that people might be surprised to know about you:

  1. I am from Vermont.
  2. I compete in triathlons (sprint distance through Ironman).
  3. I have been kicked by cows more times than I have been bitten by dogs or cats.
  4. I own five bicycles.
  5. One of my favorite animals is the moose.
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Kevin Oran, VMD

Dr. Kevin Oran Image

Dr. Oran graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. During his final year in veterinary school, he completed an externship at Family Pet. We were happy to welcome him to the practice as an associate veterinarian after graduation.

What made you want to become a vet?
I have always wanted to be a vet. I know that is a boring and unoriginal answer but it’s the truth. I love working with animals and people and there is no better career than veterinary medicine to do just that.

How did you find yourself at Family Pet?
Pure luck! I was visiting my partner here in Chicago during a summer break when I was fortunate enough to walk by Family Pet Animal Hospital. I contacted Family Pet to see if they would host me for a two-week rotation for school. They said yes, and I guess the rest is history. I am so happy to be part of this wonderful practice!

What animal scares you the most?
Bed bugs… no explanation needed.

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
I would definitely be a travel expert and writer. I am obsessed with exploring (or fumbling through) new cultures and getting lost in new adventures. I don’t have a ton of writing experience so I would have to work on that part, but I could have my own show like Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, and Anthony Bourdain. Who wouldn’t want to travel the world and do fun things while stuffing one’s face with delicious food?

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Exploring a city and eating my way through it! Now that is my idea of a good time. Skiing has quickly become my favorite activity these past few years. I'll take any chance I get to be out on the slopes (slightly difficult in the Midwest, but I try). I also love outdoor activities like biking, swimming, volleyball, kayaking, and running.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
I have so many!!! Some of my most memorable vacations include Phuket, Tokyo, Montreal, Ireland, and Paris. I hope this list continues to grow!

Favorite comfort food?
Anything Breakfast! There are never enough breakfasts in a day.

What is your favorite quote?
…“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” - JRR Tolkein. This has been my favorite quote since I was little. It has always inspired me to become the person I am today (which, apparently, is a nerd).

Name five things that people might be surprised to know about you:

  1. I love gardening!
  2. I built a computer with my dad when I was three.
  3. My Japanese host family married me off in a fashion show… unbeknownst to me. It’s a long story.
  4. I am originally from Minnesota! Although, if you have ever had a conversation with me, then you know the topic of MN comes up 100% of the time. :)
  5. One of my favorite things that I own is my record player!
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Lauren Dempsey, DVM

Dr. Lauren Dempsey Image

Dr. Dempsey graduated from The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 2014. She completed veterinary rotations in oncology, small animal and exotic medicine, as well as practice management. We welcomed her to our team of doctors in that fall of 2014. Like many of our doctors and staff, she's worked in the veterinary field since her first job at 16 years of age. While she's not a huge fan of big cities and the traffic headaches that come with them, we're glad she found her way to Chicago anyway.

What made you want to become a vet?
I’ve been saying that I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was about 8 years old. I grew up playing “vet” on my stuffed animals and my pets at home and always had a love for science and animals. I started working at a veterinary hospital when I was 16 years old and have never left!

How did you find yourself at Family Pet?
I learned about Family Pet from my boyfriend who is also a veterinarian. He completed one of his “externships” during our senior year of veterinary school at Family Pet and absolutely fell in love with the hospital and all the wonderful people who work here. When Family Pet had an opening for a new doctor, I jumped at the chance to work at such a well-respected and fun practice.

Did you study anything besides veterinary medicine in school?
I studied zoology in undergrad at Ohio State University (GO BUCKS!) so I have always been studying animals in school!

What are the most common questions you answer as a practicing veterinarian?
I think the questions I answer most are often behavior related. A lot of people have questions about why their pets act the way they do and how to go about handling things like their pet’s storm/noise phobias, potty training, obedience training, inappropriate elimination in cats, etc.

What animal scares you the most?
Snakes! And horses too- they can be pretty scary and unpredictable!

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
If I were not a veterinarian, I would be a food critic. I absolutely love eating, cooking, and trying new restaurants so what greater job than to eat for a living?

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I absolutely love to travel and to explore new places in Chicago while I am not working at the hospital. I also love to be outside running, reading, or playing tennis or volleyball.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
My favorite vacation spot is hands down the beach. I grew up going every summer to the panhandle of Florida. Nothing better than a book, warm sun, and sea breeze!

Favorite comfort food?
I am a southern girl so I love southern comfort food. I love really sweet iced tea, fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, collards, biscuits, and the list keeps going! Some good southern cooking can cure any bad day!

What is your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is seeing people litter. Nothing gets me going more!

Who are your heroes?
My biggest hero is probably my dad. He raised my sister and I on his own for the majority of our childhood. He was always working hard to support our family but managed to be there for every sport game, school play, and bad day. I strive every day in both my work and daily life to emulate his qualities of compassion, hard work, and perseverance.

Name five things that people might be surprised to know about you:

  1. I spent a summer backpacking through South America following the route of “Che” Guevara in the movie/book “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
  2. I am addicted to watching the show House Hunters on HGTV. I have watched way too many episodes!
  3. If I had to describe myself as being an “expert” at something (besides veterinary medicine), I would say that I am a cheese expert. I eat it constantly and love trying new varieties!
  4. I was a state champion in tennis my freshman and senior years of high school.
  5. . I have a cat named “Cat Stevens” after the famous folk singer.
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Annika Hoffman, DVM

Dr. Annika Hoffman Image

Dr. Annika graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin's School of Veterinary Medicine in 2014 and joined the Family Pet team as an emergency veterinarian in 2015. She completed a veterinary externship at the Komården Zoo/Wildlife Park in Sweden, and volunteered with the American Dermatology Center of Chicago and the Chicago Veterinary Emergency Center (now MedVet Chicago) prior to joining the Family Pet team. She originally hails from Sweden and we're so glad she decided to settle in the U.S.A.

What made you want to become a vet?
In third grade, I wrote that I wanted to become a researcher in the African jungle when I grew up. Perhaps I was inspired by Jane Goodall. Regardless, nature and animals have always been near and dear to my heart, so when I started my undergraduate studies in Chicago, Biology was an obvious choice as my major. During my biology studies, my interest for how life functions at the cellular level grew, and in particular, how we can use medicine to help the body heal itself. So my interest in medicine and my love for animals made veterinary medicine a good fit for me- and instead of living in the highlands of Africa I ended up in the man made jungle of Chicago.

How did you find yourself at Family Pet?
A friend of mine is a client of Family Pet and she had always spoken very highly of the hospital. After my mentor in veterinary dermatology, Dr. Cecilia Friberg, told me about a job opening at Family Pet, I immediately applied since I knew that Family Pet offers progressive medicine and an excellent work environment.

Did you study anything besides veterinary medicine in school?
Prior to veterinary school, I completed my Bachelor’s degree at DePaul University in Chicago where I majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry. I also studied English and Law for a year in college in Sweden prior to moving to the States.

What are the most common questions you answer as a practicing veterinarian?

  1. What would you do if it were your dog/cat?
  2. Quality of life discussions.
  3. What diet is best for my pet?

What do you see as the greatest danger toward household pets?
Limited time on the part of the owners. The majority of pets need mental as well as physical stimulation to be healthy and happy animals, and it is difficult to provide that in a city like Chicago where most people work long hours away from home and live in small spaces with no yards. Obesity and behavioral problems (such as destructive behavior) are often the result of the limited time that we spend with our pets.

What has been your most rewarding moment as a veterinarian?
One instance when an owner brought her dog in that was unable to walk. The owner had financial concerns and she was very anxious that she would not be able to afford any expensive diagnostics or treatments. After a physical exam, we found dozens of ticks on the dog, and after careful removal of the ticks, the dog improved over the day and went home the same evening. This patient had a condition called tick paralysis, which is caused by a certain type of tick that has a paralysis-inducing toxin in its saliva. It can be serious and cause death with no intervention, but the only treatments necessary is to remove the ticks and provide supportive care.

What animal scares you more than any other?
I am not scared of any animal per se, but I do respect the potential danger of working with certain animals. I am always very careful around beef cattle for instance- they may appear very calm and docile from a distance, but can be surprisingly fast and unpredictable up close.

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
I would likely be a forensic scientist. I like putting pieces of information together to solve problems.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Completing my Bachelor and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees since I studied both in my second language, English (Swedish being my first language).

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Anything outdoors. I thoroughly enjoy hiking, running, kayaking, cross-country skiing, snorkeling/diving, biking, horseback riding etc. Most of these activities are difficult to do in Chicago, so while I am in the city I like to spend time enjoying the cultural attractions the city has to offer (museums, musicals, Lyric Opera, CSO, improv, etc…).

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Since I live in Chicago and rarely get to go out to the countryside, my current favorite vacation spot is my hometown in Sweden. That is where I can escape to the woods and do all my favorite outdoor activities.

What is your favorite comfort food?
My mom’s homemade Swedish meatballs (served with boiled potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce)!

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Bad drivers challenge my patience more than anything else. It is a mystery to me why people slam on their breaks when a few drops of rain hit the ground or when they see a police car even though they are driving the speed limit.

Who are your heroes?
My wonderful parents- their only expectation of me has been to try and do the best that I can in whatever I do. I would not be where I am today had they not been so supportive and patient.

Name five things that people might be surprised to know about you:

  1. I was born and raised in a tiny town in central Sweden.
  2. I once performed as Mary Magdalene in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
  3. I was a competitive swimmer from the age of 5 until I graduated high school in Sweden.
  4. I backpacked through Europe for 10 weeks in 2010 (needless to say, I love traveling and adventures).
  5. I have taken advanced SCUBA diving classes (such as diving with enriched air Nitrox); however, I rarely get to go use it. Lake Michigan does not have too many exciting dive opportunities for me.
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Ken Schwartz, VMD

Dr. Ken Schwartz Image

Dr. Ken graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2000. He had practiced in both Florida and New York prior to settling in Chicago. He had worked occasionally for Family Pet as a relief veterinarian prior to him officially joining our team as an associate veterinarian in 2015.

What made you want to become a vet?
As far back as I can remember, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. My mom claims it started when they bought me a Fisher-Price veterinary kit when I was about 3 years old.

How did you find yourself at Family Pet?
I was fairly new to the city and was at a neurology dinner-lecture, and I randomly and fortunately sat down at a table next to Rae Ann Van Pelt (co-founder and managing partner of Family Pet). We got along really well and kept in touch and now here I am!

Did you study anything besides veterinary medicine in school?
I was a biology major and anthropology minor in undergrad. Biology was always by far my favorite and best subject.

What are the most common questions you answer as a practicing veterinarian?
The most common question I get is “What kind of food should my dog or cat be eating?” I kind of like this question because I think there is a lot of misleading information out there, perpetuated by companies marketing the various diets. The marketing is really out of control, in my opinion. As long as the food is for the correct life stage (e.g. puppy/kitten, senior), the pet likes the food, the stool is consistent and solid, and the pet’s correct weight is maintained, I’m pretty happy with it.

What do you see as the greatest danger toward household pets?
I think the two biggest dangers that can be prevented are obesity and lack of dental care.

What has been your most rewarding moment as a veterinarian?
Early on in my career, I worked a year as a solo overnight ER vet. I had to perform two emergency GDV surgeries (where the stomach bloats and then flips over) over the course of two weeks on two separate dogs and both did really well. I had to step out of my comfort zone and do something I had never done before and it was very rewarding to see both dogs go home a few days later.

What animal scares you more than any other?
Sharks. I won’t go in the ocean deeper than my waist

If you weren’t a vet, what would you do?
I’d want to be a biologist of some kind.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Getting into veterinary school. I worked really hard for it. The day I got my letter of acceptance was one of the happiest days of my life.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I go to the gym a lot, take naps with my dog Joey, and I’m a foodie-wannabe.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
London

What is your favorite comfort food?
Bacon Cheeseburger

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Honestly, it’s tardiness. So the emergency shift suits me well, because there are no appointments, so no one can ever be late.

Who are your heroes?
That question is kind of a pet peeve – at least how it’s often answered. To me, a hero isn’t just someone you look up to or a role model, but someone who knowingly puts him or herself in harm’s way to help someone else out. So anyone who has served in a war is my hero.

Name five things that people might be surprised to know about you:

  1. I snore and sleep with a snore guard
  2. I make a large pot of soup every Sunday which then serves as dinner four nights a week.
  3. I have really bad dry eye and have to put in various eye drops all day long
  4. I’m Jewish but have always celebrated Christmas.
  5. All of my dogs that I’ve had as an adult were dogs that were hit by cars, had broken legs/pelvises, and were then abandoned by their original owners.
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Marla Minuskin, DVM (April 17, 1960 - May 3, 2013)

Dr. Marla Minuskin Image

Dr. Minuskin was co-founder of Family Pet Animal Hospital in 1990, graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 1985. After taking an extended medical leave from June 2009 – June 2010, Dr Marla made the difficult decision to retire from active veterinary practice to focus on her health. She lost her four-year battle with cancer on May 3, 2013. She had a profound impact on all those she met with her larger-than-life personality. We miss her dearly every day. She will remain in our hearts forever.

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