Get to know our leaders.
Bringing a diverse array of experiences, our leadership team has helped BluePearl become the fastest-growing network of specialty and emergency animal hospitals in the country.
Nicholas R. Nelson, DVM, MBA, President
Nick brings to BluePearl over 25 years of experience in the veterinary industry. He began his career as a veterinarian in Washington, where he helped build a thriving 24-hour multidisciplinary practice.
He has also worked as a regional medical director for VCA in the Pacific Northwest and at Pet Partners as chief medical officer and president.
Of all his accomplishments to date, his proudest remains his son, Thomas.
Richard Stone, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM), Chief Medical Officer
Richard joined BluePearl in 2011 as an internal medicine specialist in Houston, Texas. He practiced medicine and served as a hospital medical director until 2018, when he took on the role of group medical director. He has also led BluePearl’s biosecurity and infection control committee for several years.
In 2019, Richard became the VP of medicine for our central region, supporting over 30 hospital teams from Texas to Michigan. He then served as BluePearl’s vice president of medicine, ensuring regional and local medical leaders across the country can deliver on our promise of exceptional care, before becoming our chief medical officer in 2024.
He completed his veterinary training and internship at Texas A&M University and an internal medicine residency at the University of Georgia.
When not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, along with their many pets.
Da Chang, MBA, Chief Operations Officer
In his role, Da focuses on the operations function across our hospitals and supporting BluePearl’s organizational goals.
Da’s prior experience in the medical field includes his roles as VP of Operations and Chief Operating Officer of Advanced Dermatology as well as his positions at Sea Lane Biotechnologies, Maine Center for Lipids and Cardiovascular Health and Health Dialog.
Da earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University, followed by an MBA at the University of Florida. He is a dynamic leader who earns trust and builds relationships via transparency, communication and teamwork along with his data-driven approach to operational leadership.
Joo Sangrene, MBA, Chief Marketing Officer
Joo joined BluePearl in 2015 and directs marketing strategy for the organization. She leads digital marketing, communications, customer experience and creative services.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Joo lives in Tampa with her husband, two children and a long-haired cat named Grumpies.
Pauline Bell, DVM, Chief Information Officer
Pauline joined BluePearl in 2020 and served as the director of IT before becoming our CIO. She is responsible for BluePearl’s technology strategy and managing overall IT operations.
Pauline holds a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science with an emphasis in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. She then completed her DVM at Massey University.
Before joining BluePearl, Pauline worked for organizations including IBM, the Walt Disney Company and Banfield Pet Hospital.
Pauline lives in Tampa with her daughter and their two dogs, Riot and Eleanor.
Gumer Arriola, MBA, Chief Financial Officer
As BluePearl’s CFO, Gumer is responsible for the financial function of our hospitals and support teams.
Before joining BluePearl, Gumer worked at Yum! Brands, where he served in several senior roles, including global director of finance for KFC to his most recent position as chief financial officer and head of supply chain for KFC Latin America & Caribbean. He began his career in management consulting before moving into finance.
Gumer holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Instituto Technologic de Monterrey and an MBA from IESE Business School. Gumer brings a commercial bend to his finance leadership.
Stan Little, Vice President of Legal
Stan oversees BluePearl’s legal matters and strategy. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Lamar University and graduated from Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
With over 20 years of legal experience, which includes 12+ years in the pet industry, and extensive knowledge of general corporate legal and business issues, Stan brings a high level of professionalism to BluePearl.
Stan and his wife are proud owners of their chocolate lab, Kendall.
Arabella Smith, Vice President of Corporate Affairs
As a brand storyteller and communications leader, Belle brings 20+ years of international experience working in regional and global corporate affairs roles at Starbucks, Mars Retail, Mars Wrigley and Mars Veterinary Health.
Prior to joining BluePearl, Belle worked at VCA Animal Hospitals where she found her place in veterinary medicine. Her passion for pets and purpose-driven work make this her dream job.
Jeff Horvath, SHRM-SCP, Vice President of People & Organization
The majority of Jeff’s 15+ years in the human resources field has been in human and veterinary medicine. He is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the P&O function and improving the lives and experiences of all Associates at BluePearl.
Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and earned his MBA with an emphasis in management and leadership.
Jeff and his wife live in Tampa, FL, with their three children and one pet.
Stephen Reyes, Vice President, Strategy and Development
Stephen has over a decade of experience leading fleet strategy with delivery of new hospitals to emerging markets, relocations of hospitals to new facilities and support of long-term fleet growth.
Prior to joining BluePearl, Stephen led hospital operations at Banfield for five years supporting 1,000 pet hospitals across North America. He earned his degree in pharmacy at the University of North Carolina and led healthcare teams in the Carolinas and Texas with CVS Health (Eckerd) for 20 years in field operations.
Nichole Eddings, Vice President, Operations
Cole joined BluePearl in 2013 as a practice manager at our Spring, Texas, hospital. She was quickly promoted into larger leadership roles, paving the way as the first senior hospital administrator (central region), director of field operations (central region) and regional vice president of operations/RVPO (mid-Atlantic region).
She now serves as the VP of operations, supporting our operational leadership teams. Cole leads with integrity and trust and drives collaboration across all functions, ensuring our ability to achieve operational excellence.
Cole earned her bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State University.
Cole is a lifelong Texan and lives outside of Houston with her husband, two children and their senior pets. Outside of work, Cole enjoys the outdoors and any activity on the water.
Regional operational leadership.
Christopher W. Salamon, Regional Vice President, Operations
With a diverse background encompassing leadership roles in both the veterinary and financial sectors, Christopher is a seasoned professional committed to building engaged and high-performing teams. As BluePearl’s regional vice president of operations for the mid-Atlantic region, he brings a wealth of experience in leadership, associate engagement, and values-driven management.
Christopher holds a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from the University of Maryland.
Johana Beresky, Regional Vice President, Operations
As BluePearl’s regional vice president of operations for the west region, Johana leverages her comprehensive skill set in veterinary medicine, CRM and team building to drive success.
With a solid educational foundation, including an MBA from Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School, Johana combines her academic knowledge with hands-on experience in various managerial roles, ensuring both business profitability and a thriving work environment.
Passionate about continuous learning and mental health awareness, Johana is a certified Mental Health First Aid professional.
Kimberly Ann Therrien, DVM, Regional Vice President, Operations
A graduate of the University of Montreal, Dr. Kimberly Ann Therrien joined Banfield Pet Hospital in 2006, starting as an associate veterinarian and moving into a leadership role as vice president of veterinary quality. In 2021, Kimberly Ann became BluePearl’s regional vice president of operations for the southeast region, where she is instrumental in ensuring the delivery of high-quality medical care.
In 2022, Kimberly Ann assumed the role of past president of the Women Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative (WVLDI). Her passion for leadership and the many challenges that veterinarians face within the profession is what first led her to join WVLDI, and she is committed to helping shape the future of veterinary medicine.
In her free time, Kimberly Ann loves spending time enjoying the great outdoors and traveling with her two daughters and husband.
Rebecca Schuster, MBA, Regional Vice President, Operations
Rebecca joined BluePearl in 2005, beginning at Michigan Veterinary Specialists, which became a BluePearl hospital in 2010. Before moving to operations, her hospital leadership journey began in human resource management, accounting and finance. Rebecca earned her MBA at Grand Valley State University.
As regional vice president of operations for the central region, Rebecca provides strategic leadership to ensure the alignment of regional operations with the organization's overall mission, vision and objectives. She develops strategies for efficient operations across multiple hospitals and leads a team of hospital managers and support staff to ensure our Associates have the guidance, training and support needed to succeed.
Outside of work, Rebecca is a member of a non-profit group that helps women business owners succeed. She is married with two beautiful daughters and a golden retriever puppy.
Yadira Payne, Regional Vice President, Operations
With over 17 years of experience at BluePearl, Yadira has excelled in various roles, culminating in her current position as the regional vice president of operations for the northeast region. Her expertise and strong leadership skills have contributed to the success and growth of the organization.
Yadira holds a bachelor’s in business management and economics from SUNY.
Regional medical leadership.
Lauren Harris, DVM, DACVECC, Regional Vice President, Medicine
Lauren joined BluePearl as a veterinary intern in 2011 following veterinary school at Auburn University. She stayed with BluePearl to continue her advanced training as an emergency and critical care resident, achieving board certification in 2015.
Following her residency, Lauren launched the critical care service at our Clearwater hospital. In 2016, she became the medical director and served in that role until moving into a group medical director position for our Florida hospitals in 2020. In 2021, Lauren moved across the country from Tampa, Florida, to the greater Seattle, Washington, area. As a regional vice president of medicine, she supports the medical operations of our hospitals in the western United States.
A Kentucky native, she considers herself a bourbon aficionado. Outside work, you can find Lauren gardening, traveling and hiking in the Pacific Northwest with her pug, Nug.
Geoff Heffner, DVM, MBA, DACVECC, Regional Vice President, Medicine
Geoff joined BluePearl in 2021 as a group medical director before advancing to his current role as regional vice president of medicine for the central region.
Geoff attended Michigan State University, earning a bachelor's degree in veterinary science and his doctorate in veterinary medicine in 2003. He then completed an internship in New Jersey and a residency in emergency and critical care at Tufts University in 2007 before becoming board certified. He earned his MBA from Colorado State University where he also served as an assistant professor for seven years.
Geoff enjoys relaxing with his wife, hiking in the mountains and skiing.
Benjamin O'Kelley, DVM, DACVECC, Regional Vice President, Medicine
Ben graduated with a degree in biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before obtaining his veterinary degree from North Carolina State University. After a rotating internship at Tufts University, he completed a residency in emergency and critical care at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.
After almost a decade as a critical care specialist and medical director, Ben served as the chief medical officer for Pet Partners, a Mars Veterinary Health company operating approximately 90 hospitals, before joining BluePearl in 2020.
As regional vice president of medicine for the mid-Atlantic region, Ben enjoys connecting clinical team members across different hospitals so that expertise in one hospital can benefit patients in multiple other hospitals. A passionate advocate of responsible antibiotic use, he also leads BluePearl’s antimicrobial stewardship efforts.
Ben grew up in Kansas City and still roots hard for the Royals and the Chiefs. In his free time, he enjoys working out and spending time with his wife, son and two brindle rescue dogs.
Joey Vest, DVM, DACT, DABVP, Regional Vice President, Medicine
Joey graduated from Texas A&M in 1998 and entered equine practice northwest of Houston. He completed his theriogenology residency at Texas A&M, becoming board-certified by the American College of Theriogenologists in 2005 and later by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.
Joey joined the US Army Reserve (USAR) in 2001 as a first lieutenant in the veterinary corps, motivating him to seek out companion animal relief work at Banfield and VCA to keep his clinical skills up to date for his military working dog obligations.
Joey joined VCA full-time in 2019 as a medical director in Katy, Texas. Since then, he has sought out leadership opportunities within the Mars family and was excited to join BluePearl as the regional vice president of medicine of the southeast in 2023.
Joey is married with four beautiful children. He and his family enjoy anything related to coastal life including fishing and hanging out at the beach.
Lenore Bacek, DVM, MS, DACVECC, Vice President, Clinical Affairs
Lenore joined BluePearl in 2019 as a clinical programs manager, overseeing the EmERge program. In 2021, she became the senior director of clinical affairs, working to support training programs, current and new, BluePearl Science and our telemedicine service. She became the vice president of clinical affairs for BluePearl in 2023.
She completed her emergency and critical care residency at Auburn University, where she remained on faculty for an additional eight years.
When not working, Lenore enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
Melinda Larson, DVM, DACVIM, Director, Medical Quality
Melinda joined BluePearl in 2010 as a small animal rotating intern at our Tampa hospital and stayed for her residency in internal medicine. She then led the internal medicine service at our Clearwater hospital for nine years. During that time, Melinda also served on the intern selection committee, acted as an intern mentor, co-directed the internship program and led patient safety efforts.
As BluePearl’s director of medical quality, Melinda leads the team that promotes ongoing improvement through medical excellence, patient safety and continuous learning. She enjoys collaborating with our hospitals to improve patient safety and delivery of care through implementing systems changes.
Outside of work, Melinda enjoys going to the gym, being on the water and spending time with her husband and pets.
Amy Ramirez, LVT, LAT, Director, Nursing and Training
Amy Ramirez worked in general practice and lab animal medicine early on in her career. She has experience with the Army Institute of Surgical Research, where she focused on hemostasis, reperfusion injury and ventilation modalities. Amy has worked within the hospitals for the past 21 years, holding roles of technician manager, practice manager, veterinary relations representative, hospital administrator and director of field operations.
As BluePearl's director of nursing and training, she works closely with our regional nursing partners to elevate the role of assistants and veterinary technicians by ensuring they can work to the top of their licensure. She is passionate about creating career paths that support veterinary technicians across the course of their careers. She and her team of regional nursing partners provide support for our patient care Associates across 100+ hospitals.
Meghan Respess, DVM, DACVECC, Director, Blood Banking
Meghan joined BluePearl in 2017 and served as the medical director of our Brooklyn hospital and group medical director of the Philadelphia area hospitals before becoming the director of our national blood banking program in 2022.
She attended veterinary school at Louisiana State University and her internship and residency were completed at Tufts University.
Virginia (Jinni) Sinnott-Stutzman, DVM, DACVECC, Director, House Officer Programs
Jinni attended veterinary school at Tufts University. After graduation, she completed a rotating internship at Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency and continued to practice emergency medicine in the Tucson area. She completed an emergency and critical care residency at the University of Pennsylvania and became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in 2009.
Jinni's leadership experience includes leading emergency and critical care residencies and has overseen the training of over 180 interns. She is an associate editor for the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. She oversees BluePearl’s house officer programs, which include rotating internships, specialty internships and residencies.
Sarah Moore, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology), Director, BluePearl Science
Sarah graduated from vet school at Auburn University in 2005. She completed a small animal rotating internship at the University of Missouri, followed by a residency in neurology and neurosurgery at North Carolina State University, becoming board certified in veterinary neurology in 2009.
Sarah's professional experience includes decades of clinical research – conducting, directing, teaching – and many leadership roles in veterinary academia, research and clinical studies.
In her role, Sarah works closely with our veterinary teams to help them thrive in conducting veterinary clinical research that can provide breakthroughs in veterinary patient care.
Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her spouse, two teenage sons and pets (one geriatric Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and one very energetic cat). She is also a huge Columbus Crew soccer fan and loves to garden, read and travel.