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.

Senior leadership.

Nick Nelson is BluePearl's President.

Nicholas R. Nelson, DVM, MBA

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 is BluePearl's Chief Medical Officer.

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 BluePearl’s vice president of medicine, ensuring medical leaders across the country could 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 is BluePearl's Chief Operations Officer.

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.

Pauline Bell is BluePearl's Chief Information Officer.

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 is BluePearl's Chief Financial Officer.

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.

Dr. Lauren Harris is BluePearl's Regional Vice President of Medicine for the Central region.

Lauren Harris, DVM, DACVECC
Vice President of 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 to be a vice president of medicine for the West. In 2024, she was promoted to vice president of medicine for the entire organization.

A Kentucky native, Lauren considers herself a bourbon aficionado. Outside of work, she can be found gardening, traveling and hiking in the Pacific Northwest with her pug, Nug.

Cole Eddings is BluePearl's Vice President of Operations.

Nichole Eddings
Vice President of 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 a senior hospital administrator, director of field operations and vice president of operations for the Mid-Atlantic.

She now serves as vice president 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.

Belle Smith is BluePearl's Vice President of Corporate Affairs.

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 is BluePearl's Vice President of People & Organization.

Jeff Horvath, MBA, 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.

Stan Little is BluePearl's Vice President of Legal.

Stan Little, JD
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.

Divisional medical leadership.

Dr. Laura Pletz is a divisional vice president of medicine at BluePearl.

Laura Pletz, DVM, PhD
Divisional Vice President of Medicine-West

Dr. Laura Pletz completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri and earned her DVM from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000. She then worked as a small animal veterinarian in Missouri, where she was one of the clinic's practice owners.

After 11 years in small animal medicine, Laura joined Royal Canin first as a technical services manager and then was promoted to scientific services manager. There, she led a team of veterinarians working in the field, focusing on opinion leadership and university outreach, among other duties.

Laura joined BluePearl in 2023 as a group medical director before being promoted to divisional vice president of medicine.

Laura's family includes her two sons and their cat named Dwight.

Geoff Heffner is BluePearl's Regional Vice President of Medicine for the central region.

Geoff Heffner, DVM, MBA, DACVECC
Divisional Vice President of Medicine-Central

Dr. Geoff Heffner joined BluePearl in 2021 as a group medical director before advancing to his current role as divisional vice president of medicine.

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.

Yann Queau is BluePearl's Regional Vice President of Medicine for the northeast region.

Yann Queau, DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition)
Divisional Vice President of Medicine-East

Dr. Yann Queau graduated from the Veterinary School of Toulouse in France in 2007. He completed an internship in renal medicine and hemodialysis and a residency in small animal clinical nutrition at the University of California, Davis. In 2011, Yann became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, now the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Nutrition).

Yann later joined the global research and development center of Royal Canin in France, where he led the research programs in nephrology and urology and served as a veterinary nutrition expert before taking the lead of the veterinary research team.

In 2023, Yann joined BluePearl as divisional vice president of medicine.

Divisional operational leadership.

Rebecca Schuster, MBA
Divisional Vice President of Operations-Central

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 divisional vice president of operations, Rebecca provides strategic leadership to ensure the alignment of divisional 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 is BluePearl's Regional Vice President of Operations for the northeast region.

Yadira Payne
Divisional Vice President of Operations-East

Yadira Payne has decades of experience in clinical and operational roles in various settings in the veterinary industry. She joined BluePearl in 2006 as one of the founding Associates at our Midtown, New York City hospital. Her diverse background and experience led her to a passion for people leadership and development, culminating in her current position as divisional vice president of operations.

Yadira is a strong advocate of Mars and BluePearl equity, inclusion and diversity (EI&D) initiatives and serves on several committees. She has also partnered with organizations in underserved communities to bring awareness to professional opportunities in the veterinary industry through student education.

Outside of work, Yadira volunteers with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which provides guide dogs to individuals with vision loss. As a native New Yorker, Yadira enjoys the hustle and bustle of the city and the natural wonders of the outskirts. Her family includes her husband and their two children, along with their dogs and cats, who were all rescued during her travels.

Clinical affairs.

Dr. Lenore Bacek is the Vice President of Clinical Affairs at BluePearl.

Lenore Bacek, DVM, MS, DACVECC
Vice President of 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 is BluePearl's Director of Medical Quality.

Melinda Larson, DVM, DACVIM
Director of 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 is the Director of Nursing & Training at BluePearl.

Amy Ramirez, LVT, LAT
Director of 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 divisional 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 divisional nursing partners provide support for our patient care Associates across 100+ hospitals.

Dr. Meghan Respess is the director of BluePearl's national blood banking program.

Meghan Respess, DVM, DACVECC
Director of 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 Sinnott-Stutzman, DVM, DACVECC, is the director of BluePearl's house officer programs.

Virginia (Jinni) Sinnott-Stutzman, DVM, DACVECC
Director of 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), is the director of BluePearl Science.

Sarah Moore, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology)
Director of 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.