Our Team

Our highly trained, compassionate staff is pleased to be a part of the care team for your pet. We are here to welcome you and your loved one.

Our veterinarians perform all procedures, and have advanced experience and training in the areas of emergency, surgery, oncology, critical care and internal medicine.



Nikki Branam, DVM
Hospital Administrator

Dr. Nikki Branam is a native to East Tennessee. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Carson Newman College and master’s degree from the University of Tennessee, she spent time working in business before deciding to return to school to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

Upon receiving her doctorate in veterinary medicine from North Carolina State University, Dr. Branam completed a small animal rotating internship at Animal Emergency and Specialty Center of Knoxville. She then joined the emergency service in Knoxville full time prior to moving to Chattanooga in 2016.

While working at the AESC, Dr. Branam discovered where her interests lie. “I really enjoy working with owners and their pets – I think the relationships that I get to build with both are equally important and enjoyable. I am also really drawn to soft tissue surgery and the problem solving aspect of emergency medicine.”

Dr. Branam has combined her love for medicine, pets, and their people with her business background, taking on the role of hospital administrator for Animal Emergency & Specialty Center. Dr. Branam now oversees operations at both our Knoxville and Chattanooga locations.

Dr. Branam is a die-hard University of Tennessee football fan. She has one dog, Harvey, and one cat, Junior. In her spare time she enjoys throwing Frisbees and tennis balls for Harvey and relaxing on the back porch in the warm weather.


Jeff Phillips, DVM, MSpVM, Ph.D., DACVIM
Specialty Director, Board Certified Veterinary Oncologist

As specialty director, Jeff helps guide and grow Animal Emergency & Specialty Center, ensuring a standard of care and the selection of specialists that best meet our client’s needs. As head oncologist, Jeff takes great pride in being able to serve patients with cancer.

“I treat people’s pets as if I was going through the same thing as an owner. If I give it any less effort, I wouldn’t be happy, so I try to maintain that level of attention,” says Jeff.

Jeff graduated from Pomona College with a bachelor of science in chemistry in 1992. He then attended Tufts University, completing a combined Ph.D. (Medical Genetics) and DVM program at the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences and the Veterinary School, respectively. In 2001, Jeff attended NC State University for a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery. In 2002, he began a residency in medical oncology while simultaneously completing his master’s in preventative veterinary medicine.

After completing his specialty training in 2005, Jeff accepted a position as an assistant professor of oncology and medical genetics at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. There, he served as director of clinical research from 2009 – 2011 while running the college’s medical oncology teaching and clinical program.

In 2011, he accepted a clinical position as head of oncology at the Animal Emergency and Specialty Center, where he has focused on clinical practice. Throughout his career, Jeff has also upheld the importance of teaching and research. Thus, since 2011, he has also served as the chair of biomedical sciences and associate dean of research at Lincoln Memorial University. In this position, he hopes to continue research for his specialized field, recruit strong faculty members to run an oncology program and create a robust curriculum for budding young veterinarians.

Jeff accepted the position of specialty director in 2017.

Jeff lives on a 20-acre farm in Mascot, TN, with his wife, two sons and daughter, nine cats, four dogs, and 18 horses, one of which was a rescue blood donor horse. 


Mark Bohling, DVM, ACVS
Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon

Dr. Bohling is a California native; however, he has been in East Tennessee for ~11 years. Dr. Bohling is a 1986 graduate of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. After working as a food animal veterinarian for six years, he began working in small animal general and emergency practice in 1992. In 2004, he completed residency training in small animal surgery at Auburn University, and has been board certified since 2006. In 2007 he finished a PhD, also at Auburn, where his dissertation work focused on comparative wound healing, specifically regarding how wound healing in cats differs from wound healing in dogs. 

From 2005 to 2012, Dr. Bohling served on the faculty at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. He entered private surgery practice in 2013 (RIVER in Chattanooga) where he served as the Chief of Surgery and practiced as both a general and orthopedic surgeon. Within the field of general surgery, he has a strong interest in surgical oncology with expertise in reconstructive surgery, wound management, and surgery of exotic species. 


Rick Wong, DVM, ACVS
Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon

Dr. Wong is a California native who went to UCLA for undergraduate and Western University College of Veterinary Medicine for his DVM. After graduating from veterinary school in 2010, he pursued a competitive internship at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. His success in this internship led to his selection for a Small Animal Surgery Residency with the (very high volume) Animal Specialty Group in Los, Angeles CA (2011-2014).  

Since completion of his residency, Dr. Wong has been a staff surgeon at Wachusett Animal Hospital in Westminster, MA. He is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. 


Internal Medicine

Erin Galemore, DVM
Internal Medicine Services

Dr. Galemore is a North Carolina native who went to NCSU for her undergraduate degree and her DVM. After graduation, she spent a year in a small animal rotating internship with Blue Pearl in Tampa, FL. After completion that internship, she pursued a 1-year specialty internship in Internal Medicine at the Animal Specialty Group in Los Angeles, CA. Her success in the Internal Medicine internship allowed her to match to one of the most prestigious Internal Medicine residency programs at Tufts University.  

Since 2014, Dr. Galemore has been a Small Animal Internal Medicine Resident at Tufts. She sat for the specialty boards at the 2017 ACVIM forum in Maryland and successfully passed. She has been recognized for her strength in teaching, clinical skills, and clinical research. Her clinical interests include GI disease, renal disease, and endocrinopathies. 

Wendy Morre, DVM
Internal Medicine Services

Dr. Morre grew up in New England, working in animal rescue prior to pursuing a career as a veterinarian. She has an extensive resume in both academic and private practice veterinary medicine. She completed her undergraduate training at Murray State in KY and pursued her veterinary degree at Iowa State University. Following veterinary school, she completed a competitive small animal surgery and medicine internship at Oklahoma State before embarking on a career in private practice.
Dr. Morre’s private practice experience in the Northeast ranged from associate DVM to practice owner. After building a successful practice in New Hampshire, Dr. Morre decided she wanted to specialize in Internal Medicine and so so pursued a Specialty Internship with the Veterinary Specialists of Rochester, NY. She was then offered a prestigious residency slot in Small Animal Internal Medicine at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She excelled in her residency program and finished a concurrent Master’s degree in June 2017.

Dr. Morre sat for the specialty boards at the 2017 ACVIM forum and successfully passed them. She is well recognized by her mentors and peers for her clinical expertise and her compassion. Her clinical interests include feline geriatric diseases (hyperthyroidism, renal disease) and respiratory diseases. 

Avian and Exotic Animal Medicine

Katherine Baine, DVM, DABVP
Board Certified in Avian Practice

“During veterinary school one of our professors encouraged us to decipher what in veterinary medicine sparked passion, and for me the answer was easy, working with exotic animal patients. The field presents a unique challenge daily since the anatomy, physiology, and behavior for each animal is very different.”

Katherine graduated from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After graduation she completed a small animal rotating internship at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, FL and subsequently completed a 3-year avian and exotic companion mammal residency at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary medicine.
She obtained board certification from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Avian Practice in 2014 and is currently completing the requirements for the Exotic Companion Mammal Practice certification.

Katherine’s interest in exotic pets was sparked early on by a feisty little companion, Buster Boyd the budgerigar (parakeet). He was her constant companion over many years and picked up phrases including, “pretty bird” and the catcall. Katherine’s passion for exotic pets was later encouraged by multiple mentors before and during veterinary school. 

Emergency, Critical Care and Internal Medicine

Robert Paddleford, DVM, DACVA, DACVECC
Board Certified in both Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care and Anesthesiology

Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, Bob’s family was always rescuing stray dogs and cats and finding homes for them. For as long as he can remember, he has wanted to be a veterinarian.

Bob graduated from the University of Nebraska and received his doctor of veterinary medicine from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Veterinary Medicine. He held a small animal internship at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Davis California and then completed his anesthesiology residency in Missouri.

Bob is a Charter Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists and a founding Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. He taught anesthesia and critical care at the University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine for three years following his residency. He also taught at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University.

Bob came to Knoxville to be the Director of Anesthesia Services in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee in the mid 1970’s. He served as executive secretary of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists for nine years and president of the college in 1994.

Bob has published more than 150 scientific articles and book chapters. He authored two editions of the textbook Manual of Small Animal Anesthesia which was translated into six other languages. He has made close to 300 scientific presentations in the US, Canada, Japan and Europe.

Bob remained in his position at the University of Tennessee for 27 years. In 2003, he retired to form Volunteer Veterinary Anesthesia Consulting Services, his own consulting practice. He continues to provide consultations throughout the country regarding anesthesia and critical care. Bob works with the Animal Emergency and Specialty Center on specialized cases and overall best practices for critical care, emergency and anesthesia.

Bob lives with his wife of 42 years in Rockford on four acres in a historic farm house. He enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren and animals. 

Brian Rutherford, DVM
Chief Medical Officer, Head of Critical Care & Internal Medicine Service

Raised in Knoxville, Brian graduated from the University of Tennessee with his bachelor’s in biology. His first taste for working with animals was as a kennel technician for Fountain City Animal Hospital.

“A friend of mine introduced me to Dr. Mitch and I started picking up weekend work at Mitch’s emergency clinic in 1997. After I got a taste for emergency work, everything else paled in comparison.”

Brian also worked as a marine mammals keeper at the Knoxville Zoo and eventually decided to consider vet school.

Brian obtained his doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Tennessee before working at a specialty and emergency practice in Indianapolis. He then completed an emergency and critical care residency in California before returning to Knoxville to begin working at the Animal Emergency and Specialty Center in 2009.

Brian and his team actively manage each patient’s situation on a case-by-case basis. “With each patient I think ahead and make decisions about treatment, not only based on the here and now, but what I can expect will happen within the next six to 12, to 24 hours,” he says.

Despite all the advanced technical equipment used on-site, Brian believes some of the best service he and his team provides day-in and day-out is basic, fundamental nursing care.
“Not only do we treat what physically ails your pet, we also care and provide for your pet’s mental wellbeing. We encourage owners to come by and spend time with their pets during recovery.”

Brian lives in Knoxville with his wife Jennifer and their multiple pets. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, working in the yard and is an avid sports fan. He and Jennifer are expecting their first child in the summer of 2015.

Sarah Duncan, DVM
Emergency Veterinarian, Intern Director

Growing up, Sarah always wanted to be a veterinarian. While completing her undergraduate degree, she worked at a pet store and then as a veterinary technician. She then decided to pursue her lifelong dream to become a small animal veterinarian.

After obtaining her doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Florida in 2007, Sarah went on to complete a one-year rotating internship in Small Animal Surgery and Medicine at a specialty and referral hospital in Albuquerque, NM. She then worked three years as an emergency veterinarian in a specialty hospital in South Florida.

In 2011, Sarah relocated to Knoxville, TN, and joined the Animal Emergency and Specialty Center team. She has quickly become a vital member of the AESC family.

“As an ER vet, I like triaging and saving animals in their time of need. It’s wonderful to see an animal that may be touch and go at first, be able to save its life, and then be able to give the owner their pet back to continue to love,” says Sarah.

She is dedicated to providing exceptional emergency care to animals in need, and to serving as a resource for referring veterinarians. “We are extremely cutting edge here and very comparable to a human hospital in many ways,” says Sarah.

Sarah lives in Lenoir City with her family and their three cats, Charlie, the Babe, and Earl Grey. In her spare time Sarah enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on her family’s genealogy. 

Jennifer Waller, DVM
Emergency Veterinarian

Jennifer was born and raised in Knoxville, TN. Although she ventured to North Carolina and even St. Kitts and Nevis for her veterinary education, coming home to Knoxville was always part of her long-term plan. After working for a year at a private practice in Kingsport, TN, Jennifer came to work for AESC in the winter of 2010 as an emergency veterinarian.

After just a few months on the job, Jennifer performed a late-night emergency surgery on a dog, keeping him alive in the process. “I went out to talk to the owner and they thanked me for saving their pet’s life. That is when I realized that I had made a difference in the owner’s life, and that this is definitely what I want to be doing,” she says.

In addition to practicing emergency medicine, Jennifer enjoys working with the other compassionate and caring veterinarians at the Animal Emergency and Specialty Center. “In working here, we want to do what’s best for these animals. To me, going above and beyond to take care of them is what stands out about this animal hospital. I’ve learned so much from the other veterinarians. I’ve learned more in one year than most learn in five years.”

Jennifer received her bachelor’s in biology from Wingate University and her doctorate of veterinary medicine from Ross University.

Jennifer lives in Knoxville with her husband Brian. In her free time, she enjoys catching up with her friends and family, reading and spending time with her pets. 

Jessie Hamby, DVM
Emergency Veterinarian

It was not until working on her undergraduate degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science that Jessie decided veterinary medicine was for her. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University she spent the next year working with small animals at Lange Animal Hospital, which solidified her decision to pursue veterinary medicine.

After graduating in 2011 as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Tennessee she moved to Louisville, KY to work at a 24/7 emergency practice and has only recently moved back to Knoxville. She enjoys the unpredictability of emergency medicine and is very rewarded by helping both her patients and their owners.

Jessie is happy to be back home in Tennessee and is very close with her family. During her free time she enjoys traveling and doing anything outdoors as well as spending time with her cat James Taylor. 

Kaihla Parker, DVM
Emergency Veterinarian

A University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Parker has always had a passion for emergency and critical care medicine. She pursued a rotating internship focusing on emergency and critical care in Thousand Oaks & Ventura, CA and then joined R.I.V.E.R. in Chattanooga where she worked as an emergency clinician.

With 7 years of emergency medicine experience under her belt, Kaihla joined the AESC team in May 2017 when she moved to Maryville with her husband, Bobby and step-daughter, Andi. She has a special interest in ultrasound and echocardiography, cytology, surgery, and CPR training. Outside of work, she enjoys performing improv comedy, playing piano, gardening, refinishing wood furniture, and playing with the family pets: Birdie (Blue Heeler), Elsa (lilac point Siamese), and Mouse (black domestic shorthair). 

Sharon Stone, DVM
Emergency Veterinarian

As a child, Dr. Stone was always curious about creatures great and small. She would spend countless hours watching nature shows and reading books on animals. Still, it wasn’t until she was in college that she decided becoming a veterinarian was where her passion lies.

Dr. Stone obtained her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. At an internship at a private practice and emergency hospital in Tucson, Arizona, Sharon gained experience in exotics, wildlife, and zoo medicine. She soon fell in love with emergency and critical care.

Sharon met her husband, who lived in Las Vegas, and moved there in in 2010. In Las Vegas, Sharon worked at a very high volume general practice that saw a large amount of critical cases and emergencies. In addition, she gained experience in surgery, endoscopy, and ultrasound, but she always knew she would return to where it all started and move back to Knoxville.

Sharon lives in Knoxville with her husband and two daughters. Her household also includes one cat (Havoc), two huskies (Maya and Malek), and a corgi (Mace). She is a proud geek and loves all things Star Wars, sci-fi, and comics. Outside of work, Sharon enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, cooking, and making crafts. 


Keith Hnilica, DVM, MS, MBA, DACVD
Board Certified Veterinary Dermatologist

Dr. Keith Hnilica graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1993. After graduating, Dr. Hnilica completed a small animal internship and a residency in Dermatology at Auburn University. He received his Masters of Veterinary Medicine and became a board certified member of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology in 1997.

Dr Hnilica was selected into the University of Georgia’s Lilly Teaching Fellowship Program and in 2007 he completed an MBA at the University of Tenessee. Dr. Hnilica was on the faculty at the University of Georgia for 3 years and at the University of Tennessee for 8 years. Dr. Hnilica is the author of itchnot.com and the author of Small Animal Dermatology: A Color Atlas and Therapeutic Guide, which has been translated into 9 languages.


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