RCVM@OVC alumni and current team members walking through a wooded area in the Arboretum, University of Guelph

Meet our team alumni.

Click an image to read a bio.

Renu Dinesh and her dog.
Renu Dinesh (she/her)
BASc, Lab Alumna
Dr. Lea Nogueira Borden with her cat.  Image links to Lea's bio.
Dr. Lea Nogueira Borden (she/her)
DVM, MSc, Lab Alumna
Abby Davies with her pet pig. Image links to Abby's bio.
Abby Davies (she/her)
BSc, MSc, Lab Alumna
Kassandra Blais-Vaillancourt and a black cat
Kassandra Blais-Vaillancourt (she/her)
BSc, DVM Student, Lab Alumna
Maggie McCullough
Maggie McCullough (she/her)
BSc, DVM Student, Lab Alumna
Dr. Debbie Sigesmund.
Dr. Debbie Sigesmund
DVM, MSc, MSc, Lab Alumna
Antonia DeGroot and her horse. Image links to Antonia's bio.
Antonia DeGroot (she/her)
MSc, DVM Student, Lab Alumna
Dr. Judith Cadeau Da Costa holding a bunny. Image links to Judith's bio.
Dr. Judith Cadeau Da Costa (she/her)
DVM, MSc, Lab Alumna

The RCVM team managed to strike the perfect balance between offering guidance and support while encouraging my initiative and creativity.”

Kassandra Blais-Vaillancourt, BSc,
DVM Student, Lab Alumna

Maggie McCullough and her German Shepherd

Dr. Coe’s leadership set the tone: a safe, supportive, and collaborative environment where excellence was the prevailing attitude.”

Maggie McCullough, BSc,
DVM Student, Lab Alumna

Renu Dinesh with her dog.

Renu Dinesh, BASc, Lab Alumna

Renu is passionate about the role of effective communication between veterinary professionals and pet owners in order to improve access to veterinary care and promote positive animal health outcomes.

After completing her BASc in Psychology and Biology at the University of Guelph in 2023, Renu transitioned into working with the RCVM@OVC team as a summer student and then as a part-time Research Assistant. During her time in our lab, Renu focused on a study drawing on the lived experience of veterinary professionals, with the goal of contributing to what we know about how to support retention within veterinary medicine. In the future, Renu may decide to pursue a Masters in Epidemiology and Collaborative Specialization in One Health, also at the University of Guelph.

Renu cherishes spending quality time with loved ones, including a German Shepherd and a quarter Husky mixed dog. When not engrossed in reading and drawing, Renu leads an active lifestyle by engaging in sports, working out, and swimming. (Return to top)

Dr. Lea Nogueira Borden with her cat.

Dr. Lea Nogueira Borden, DVM, MSc, Lab Alumna

A desire to explore the inter-relationship between human and animal health represents a common theme running through Lea’s diverse research background. Specifically, she has pursued a special interest in understanding the relationships, communication, and environments that support this mutual well-being.

Lea completed both her DVM (2002) and her MSc in Epidemiology (2007) at the Ontario Veterinary College. During her MSc, Lea investigated veterinarian-client communication around end-of-life decision-making. Over the course of her veterinary career, Lea has worked in a variety of settings, including small-animal practice, academia, government, and community outreach.

During the years Lea worked with the RCVM@OVC team on doctoral-level research, she made valuable contributions to the study of team-based veterinary care, including opportunities to support veterinary team effectiveness and well-being.

Outside of work, Lea enjoys outdoor adventures of all kinds, and spending time with her husband, three children, and various furry family members. (Return to top)

Abby Davies with her pet pig.

Abby Davies, BSc, MSc, Lab Alumna

Abby’s research interests are driven by wanting to understand how relationship-centred aspects of veterinary medicine can impact the decisions pet owners make for taking steps toward improving the health and well-being of their pets.  

Abby completed her BSc in Biomedical Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology, thereafter joining the RCVM@OVC team as an MSc student, completing her Masters degree in the fall of 2023. Abby’s Masters research project explored pet weight-related communication in veterinary practice, specifically how veterinarian-client communication affects pet owners’ decisions about pursuing weight management for their pets.

Outside of her studies, Abby enjoys playing high-level hockey, paddle boarding, and spending time with her family, friends, and pets. For the 2023-’24 academic year, Abby is taking a hiatus from academia to play on a professional women’s ice-hockey team in Mannheim, Germany! (Return to top)

Kass with her black cat.

Kassandra Blais-Vaillancourt, BSc, DVM Student, Lab Alumna

Kassandra is interested in learning how we can best facilitate open and meaningful conversations in veterinary medicine. As a DVM student, she is passionate about ensuring that pet parents feel proactive and included in their pet’s health and treatment plan. She is excited about how we can incorporate relationship-centred veterinary medicine into our clinics and improve the well-being of our furry companions. 

Kassandra graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Biological Science. Prior to her acceptance into the DVM program in 2022, she was conducting research at McGill University investigating the effects of the immune system on breast cancer progression. Kassandra spent the summer of 2023 engaged in research with the RCVM@OVC team, investigating the quality, nature, and reading level of digital messaging on veterinary-practice websites, and comparing the messaging to other sources of digital pet-health information. 

Outside of research, Kassandra loves to hike with her dog, read with her cat, and spend as much time outdoors as she can. (Return to top)

Maggie McCullough with a dog

Maggie McCullough, BSc, DVM Student, Lab Alumna

In relationship-centred veterinary medicine, Maggie is passionate about discovering tools and techniques that allow for effective and rewarding navigation through the complexities of a client-veterinarian relationship. 

Maggie graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Minor in Communication. She is currently completing her DVM degree at the Ontario Veterinary College. During her time at Eastern Michigan University, Maggie participated in a variety of research projects. Most notably, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Department of Animal Science on a project that focused on the impact of Hantavirus on both rodent and human species.  Maggie spent the summer of 2023 doing research with the RCVM@OVC team, supporting a study about clinical-communication education for the management of pet weight.

Outside of research, Maggie enjoys spending quality time with family, friends, and her boyfriend. During her time at Eastern Michigan University, Maggie was a member of the Women’s NCAA Soccer Team. Although her time is up there, you can find her playing any and all sports each chance she gets.  (Return to top)

Dr. Debbie Sigesmund.

Dr. Debbie Sigesmund, DVM, MSc, Lab Alumna

To relate means to create a connection. When we practice relationship-centred veterinary medicine we create connections that benefit all involved. 

Debbie completed her BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Toronto and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Guelph. She practiced companion animal veterinary medicine in both Boston, MA and Toronto, ON. She also spent 10 years working as a technical service veterinarian at Nestle Purina Petcare Canada.

Debbie completed her Masters in Population Medicine in 2022, with a focus on virtual veterinary care from the veterinarian and pet-owner perspectives.  In 2021, she founded MyHeartPet Consultants with the goal of helping veterinarians and other veterinary team members learn how to communicate with clients and each other. 

Outside of work, Debbie is very proud to be the mother of two daughters, the pet parent of two dogs and two goldfish. (Return to top)

Antonia DeGroot and her horse.

Antonia DeGroot, MSc, DVM student, Lab Alumna

As a self-declared “people person” Antonia has always been interested in interpersonal relationships and communication. Getting to pair this interest with her passion for animal agriculture and food-animal producers was a dream come true when she started her Master of Science (MSc) degree with Drs. Jason Coe and Todd Duffield. 

Antonia completed her MSc in the Population Medicine Department at the Ontario Veterinary College in the summer of 2020, culminating in a thesis titled “Communication during food-animal veterinarian-producer interactions during on-farm appointments”. This work included examining factors associated with food-animal producer satisfaction following an on-farm visit with a veterinarian, as well as factors associated with producers’ and veterinarians’ perceptions of the veterinarians’ producer-centred communication skills during an on-farm visit. 

Currently, Antonia is completing her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at the Ontario Veterinary College, where she is part of the class of 2025. She plans to pursue food-animal medicine after graduation.  Outside of school, Antonia enjoys horseback riding, spending time with her friends and family, reading and travelling. (Return to top)

Dr. Judith Cadeau Da Costa holding a bunny.

Dr. Judith Cadeau da Costa, DVM, MSc, Lab Alumna

During Judith’s 21 years as private-practice veterinarian, she observed the differences in patient outcomes based on the quality of veterinarian-client communication. It was due to her on-the-job observation that she became passionate about perusing research in relationship-centred veterinary medicine.

In 1993, Judith completed her Honours BSc in Biology at the University of Guelph. She then went on to complete her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, in 1998. She practiced companion animal medicine exclusively until returning to the University of Guelph in 2019 to complete her MSc in Epidemiology in Dr. Coe’s lab, graduating in 2021.

Judith’s thesis research focused on veterinarian-client communication about the companion animal physical exam. She has published 2 papers in JAVMA on this topic. Currently she is the Chief Veterinarian at Toronto Animal Services. Outside of work, Judith enjoys boating, spending time with nature, gardening and interior decorating. (Return to top)

Renu Dinesh and her dog.

“Working with the RCVM team was an incredibly positive experience. The supportive and collaborative atmosphere ensured there was always someone to lend a hand or offer guidance—a true testament to the team’s nurturing environment.”

Renu Dinesh, BASc, Lab Alumna

“I am very grateful to have worked with Dr. Coe, and thankful to him for making grad school such a successful and enjoyable experience .”

Antonia DeGroot, MSc,
DVM Student, Lab Alumna