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

Team-member SPOTLIGHT!

Abby Partington, BASc (she/her)
Preferred name: Abby (“A-bee”)
MSc Student

Logo for RCVM@OVC is a graphic of a heart with profiles of a dog and cat inside the heart, and 2 circles above the heart that could be interpreted to represent veterinary team members, client, etc.
Abby Partington with her cat.

Abby is an MSc student working with Dr. Coe, conducting research on how a veterinary professional’s pet-weight-related communication with clients may be impacted by the veterinary professional’s unconscious weight bias.

Prior to beginning her master’s program, Abby completed her BASc at the University of Guelph, specializing in English and Biology.  Her long-term goal is to continue learning as much as possible about the human-animal bond, with the hope of improving communications between clients and veterinary teams.

Outside of research, Abby enjoys reading, cooking, and solving puzzles, all with the help of her cat.

Meet the RCVM@OVC team.

Click an image to read a bio.

Dr. Jason Coe with his Bernese Mountain dog.  Image links to Jason's bio.
Dr. Jason Coe (he/him)
Preferred name: Jason (“JAY-sun”)
DVM, PhD, Principal Investigator
Dr. Natasha Janke with a dog. Image links to Natasha's bio.
Dr. Natasha Janke (she/her)
Preferred name: Natasha (“Nah-TAH-shuh”)
PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Dr. Kat Sutherland with a cat.  Image links to Kat's bio.
Dr. Kat Sutherland (she/her)
Preferred name: Kat (sounds like “Cat”)
PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Rosalie Fortin Choquette with her horse. Image links to Rosalie's bio.
Rosalie Fortin-Choquette (she/her)
Preferred name: Rosalie (“Rose-ah-lee”)
MA, PhD Candidate
Catherine Groves with a kitten. Image links to Catherine's bio.
Catherine Groves (she/her)
Preferred name: Catherine (“KATH-rin”)
MSc, PhD Candidate
Dr. Kirsten Blokland and her Havanese dog. Image links to Kirsten's bio.
Dr. Kirsten Blokland (she/her)
Preferred name: Kirsten (“KEER-sten”)
PhD, Research Staff
Radhika Gandhi
Radhika Gandhi (she/her)
Preferred name: Radhika (“RAD-ih-ka”)
BSc, MSc, Research Associate
Dr. Erin Phillips and her horse.
Dr. Erin Phillips (she/her)
Preferred name: Erin (“AIR-in”)
Basima Rashid holding an exotic bird.
Basima Rashid (she/her)
Preferred name: Basima (“BOSS-i-ma”)
BASc, MSc Student
Abigayle Partington and her cat.
Abby Partington (she/her)
Preferred name: Abby (“A-bee”)
BASc, MSc Student
Headshot of Maziha Kamal.
Maziha Kamal (she/her)
Preferred name: Maziha (“Muh-Zee-Yuh”)
BSc, MSc Student
Kassandra Blais-Vaillancourt and a black cat
Kassandra Blais-Vaillancourt (she/her)
Preferred name: Kass
BSc, DVM Student, Lab Summer Student

“I have to imagine it would be difficult to find a more supportive team to be a part of.
We walk the walk, so to speak, and are always looking for ways to better collaborate
with one another to support the work we do as well as the people doing it.”

Dr. Kat Sutherland, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow

RCVM@OVC team in action

Dr. Jason Coe and his dog.

Dr. Jason Coe, DVM, PhD, Principal Investigator

Dr. Jason Coe holds the VCA Canada Chair in Relationship-Centred Veterinary Medicine (2021-2026) and is a Professor at the Ontario Veterinary College. After graduating from the College as a veterinarian in 2001, he returned from mixed-animal veterinary practice to complete a PhD in veterinary-clinical communication in 2008. In the same year, Jason joined the Ontario Veterinary College in the Department of Population Medicine where he has established an active research program examining the human-animal bond as well as the role of interpersonal communication on the outcomes of veterinary care.  In his current role at the College, he coordinates the clinical-communication curriculum across all 4 years of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program and is involved in teaching students about the relationships that exist between people and animals.  

Over the past decade and a half, Jason has also established an international reputation for his leadership in research relating to veterinary communication, primary-care veterinary education and understanding of the human-animal relationship.  In his research, Jason incorporates the use of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to perform research that has the goal of achieving the greatest practical learnings for the veterinary profession. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, contributed to several book chapters and is regularly invited to speak nationally and internationally at scientific and continuing-education conferences. In 2021, Jason was honoured by the American Veterinary Medical Association with the AVMA Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award for his notable contributions to the veterinary profession. (Return to top)

Dr. Natasha Janke with a dog.

Dr. Natasha Janke, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Natasha Janke’s (“Nah-TAH-shuh JAIN-kee”) research interests are driven by a desire to understand how social interactions in veterinary medicine impact outcomes. Natasha seeks to understand processes that can be used to tailor experiences to meet the individual needs of clients. 

Natasha completed her MSc in epidemiology after receiving her BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Guelph. She then completed her PhD in epidemiology (OVC 2021), where she explored information exchange and decision-making within veterinary appointments. Following her PhD, Natasha examined the impact of a 15-month in-practice communication training intervention, as a post-doctoral fellow at Colorado State University. 

Natasha returned to the OVC and joined the RCVM@OVC team in the summer of 2022. She is applying quantitative and qualitative research methods to explore team-based veterinary medicine, as she collaborates with VCA Canada. 

Natasha enjoys cooking and activities that involve spending time outdoors, including hiking, paddleboarding, camping, and playing soccer. (Return to top)

Dr. Kat Sutherland and her cat.

Dr. Kat Sutherland, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Kat’s research interests are motivated by wanting to understand how relationships in veterinary medicine impact pet owners’ uptake of and adherence to nutritional and weight management recommendations, and how veterinary-client communication can be enhanced to improve the quality of life for pets with excess weight. 

Kat completed both her BSc in Animal Biology and her MSc in Animal Nutrition at the University of Guelph. Her PhD research (OVC 2022) explored pet weight-related communication in small animal veterinary practice, with emphasis on obesity-specific communication. 

Currently, Kat is involved in the development of an educational intervention study for veterinary professionals that is focused on the prevention and treatment of obesity in dogs and cats, as well as how to best communicate about obesity and weight management with pet owners. 

Outside of work you are likely to find Kat on a pool deck, reading, or spending time with her partner and their cats. (Return to top)

Rosalie Fortin Choquette and her horse.

Rosalie Fortin-Choquette, MA, PhD Candidate

With the desire to bridge the gap between humanities and sciences, Rosalie’s research interests combine her background in social sciences and epidemiology, and aim to understand the relationship between diverse communication modalities, relationship-building and accessible care.

Rosalie earned her Master of Arts degree at the University of Guelph in the School of Literature and Languages in 2019, where her research focused on the evolution of various forms of communication through social media. This led to an interest in clinical communication and ICTs (information and communication technology) and inspired her to pursue her education in the field of epidemiology. As a PhD candidate in the lab, her research currently aims to identify the perceived barriers and the potential benefits associated with the implementation of virtual care platforms in the veterinary profession.

Outside her studies, Rosalie enjoys spending time outside with her two dogs and two cats, and the horses she takes care of. She is greatly involved in the equestrian scene and you can often see her at a horse show on the weekends. (Return to top)

Catherine Groves with a kitten at the Guelph Humane Society.

Catherine Groves, MSc, PhD Candidate

Having fulfilled multiple roles in animal care and veterinary clinic settings, including that of pet owner, Catherine is fascinated by the relationship-centred aspects of veterinary medicine.

Catherine completed both her BScH in Biomedical Science and MSc in Epidemiology at the University of Guelph. During her MSc, her work focused on exploring the prevalence and nature of cost conversations in companion animal practice. Her studies led her to an interest in how the value and importance of veterinary care is communicated with veterinary clients, including explanations of the explicit benefit this care provides to the patient.

Catherine is currently working on understanding pet parent preferences in decision-making in terms of the care their pets receive and the communication surrounding features of care, like the value of care.

Outside of her studies, Catherine’s involvement in various local animal rescues and community outreach programs, alongside her friends and partner, fuels her research interests and purpose in the field. In the evenings, Catherine can be found reading with any number of animals on her lap. (Return to top)

Dr. Kirsten Blokland with her dog.

Dr. Kirsten Blokland, PhD, Research Staff

In all the research Kirsten has conducted, one of the threads that has held particular interest for her has been the various relationship-centred factors involved in the phenomena she has studied.

Kirsten completed her PhD in Psychology at the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children, focusing on the parent-child relationship and emotional development. Thereafter, she remained with the Hospital for Sick Children for the next 20 years as the clinical research project manager for several large studies involving parents and children.

Kirsten is delighted to have joined the RCVM@OVC team in late 2021, and is enjoying the challenge of applying her knowledge of relationship-centred phenomena to the context of veterinary medicine, supporting the activities of the team in a variety of ways.

Outside of work time, Kirsten enjoys spending time with her family (including their Havanese dog), teaching yoga, and singing classical music with a choir. (Return to top)

Headshot of Radhika Gandhi.

Radhika Gandhi, BSc, MSc, Research Associate

A common theme in Radhika’s research interests includes understanding the different ways in which stakeholder involvement can influence outcomes of interest. Specifically, Radhika is interested in learning more about the role relationship-building can play on pet health, and on strengthening the veterinary field. 

Radhika completed her BSc in Biology at the University of Western Ontario and her MSc in Epidemiology and Collaborative Specialization of One Health at the University of Guelph. Radhika has previous experience working as a research assistant at the London Health Sciences Centre. Radhika’s MSc research focused on working with students to identify innovative pedagogical strategies that can help strengthen One Health and climate change education in institutes of higher education.  As a Research Associate with the RCVM@OVC team, Radhika is working on a study that draws on the lived experience of veterinary professionals, with the goal of contributing to what we know about how to support retention within veterinary medicine.

During her free time, Radhika enjoys going on hikes, playing basketball, and spending time with her family and friends.  (Return to top)

Dr. Erin Phillips and her horse.

Dr. Erin Phillips, DVM, DVSc, ACVIM-SAIM, PhD Student

Erin is interested in improving the relationship between clients and veterinarians so that animals can be better treated and veterinarians can have greater job satisfaction.

Erin completed a BSc in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph, and a DVM and DVSc at the Ontario Veterinary College.  Her DVSc focused on rivaroxaban use in dogs with thrombosis, and was supervised by Dr. Shauna Blois. Erin is also a board-certified specialist in Small Animal Internal Medicine, and is excited to be working toward a PhD in the RCVM@OVC lab. Erin’s PhD is co-supervised by Dr. Jason Coe and Dr. Shauna Blois, and focuses on expanding what is known about a clinical practice referred to as the Talking Physical Exam and ways in which this practice can optimize clinical communication between veterinary professionals and clients.

Erin enjoys horseback riding, spending time with her three cats, and hanging out with her husband (newly married!). (Return to top)

Basima Rashid holding an exotic bird.

Basima Rashid, BASc, MSc Student

Basima is interested in the practical and social interactions occurring within the veterinary field. These interests and her passion for veterinary medicine drew her to the RCVM@OVC research program.

Basima completed her BASc at the University of Guelph, where she specialized in Biology and Philosophy. During her undergraduate degree, Basima completed a research project on octopus intelligence and a case study on the Wolverine population in Boreal Alberta.  As an MSc student in the RCVM@OVC lab, Basima is currently focusing on veterinary communication.

Outside of her research work, Basima worked at the African Lion Safari, where she handled and trained various exotic species including bats, pythons, armadillos, sloths, and even macaws. (Return to top)

Abigayle Partington and her cat.

Abby Partington, BASc, MSc Student

Abby is passionate about improving the accessibility of information in order to help pet parents give their pets the highest quality of care. Abby believes that sharing veterinary expertise in a caring and effective way can help pet owners to better understand the complexities of their animals’ health. 

Abby completed a BASc at the University of Guelph, where she specialized in English and Biology. In her current role as an MSc Student with the RCVM@OVC team, she is excited to be studying communication involving weight management in pets. 

Outside of work, Abby enjoys reading, cooking, and solving puzzles, all with the help of her cat! (Return to top)

Headshot of Maziha Kamal.

Maziha Kamal, BSc, MSc Student

Maziha is passionate about relationship-centred veterinary medicine because it emphasizes the bond between animals and their owners, recognizing the interconnectedness of their well-being.  Maziha values this approach because it considers not only the physical health of the animal but also their emotional and social needs, fostering stronger and more meaningful connections between veterinary professionals, animals, and their human companions.

Maziha completed a Bilingual Honours BSc at York University, specializing in Biology.  Her undergraduate degree included a field course involving observation of animals’ interactions with people in various ecological contexts, including bird-banding sessions and small mammals’ response to camera monitoring. These experiences sparked Maziha’s curiosity about the potential therapeutic effects of animal-human interactions, particularly in high-stress environments such as healthcare settings.  Currently, as an MSc Student in Population Medicine at the University of Guelph, Maziha is co-supervised by Dr. Jason Coe in the RCVM@OVC lab, and by Dr. Basem Gohar in the UGROHW Lab.  Through this dual-supervision opportunity, Maziha is investigating the impact of support from a facility dog on human-healthcare workers’ perceived stress, perceived work support, and organizational commitment.

When not immersed in research, Maziha enjoys exploring the vibrant worlds of Nintendo games! Beyond that, she looks for opportunities to innovate healthcare, whether it’s brainstorming new service expansions or refining her skills in healthcare management. (Return to top)

Kass with her black cat.

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

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. During the summer of 2024, she has returned to continue her research with the RCVM team!

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)

RCVM@OVC team posing for a photo among fall leaves in Arboretum at U of G.
Photoshoot by KB Media

“Veterinary medicine is a team sport.”
Dr. Jason Coe, DVM, PhD