July 19-20 • 1-6 PM Daily EDT

Session Leaders

Jen Brandt, PhD, MSW
Director of Member Wellbeing & Diversity Initiatives
American Veterinary Medical Association

Creating robust and thriving work cultures requires that we recognize individuals as part of multiple, overlapping systems rather than as separate from the teams, organizations, and communities in which they operate. In other words, no amount of healthy eating, mindfulness, or exercise alone will fix a toxic, disengaged work environment, and no healthy work environment can completely offset suboptimal individual choices and behaviors. As Director of Wellbeing, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiatives, Dr. Brandt guides healthcare professionals to maximize individual and organizational wellbeing by integrating macro and micro strategies, identifying what’s working well, and applying solution-focused approaches. Her education and outreach efforts focus on removing barriers to wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, eliminating toxic work cultures, promoting workplace civility, increasing self-awareness and self-efficacy, transforming conflict effectively, and enhancing team communication.

Dr. Brandt is a licensed independent social worker and supervisor, experienced grief and trauma therapist, and healthcare team communications specialist. In 1997, Dr. Brandt founded The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Honoring the Bond Program, one of the first programs in the nation aimed at recognizing and supporting the human-animal bond by providing education and resources to animal owners and animal care professionals. She also co-founded the Association of American Veterinary College’s Veterinary Mental Health Professional’s Group, which serves to enhance and build wellbeing and support programs at colleges of veterinary medicine, develop best practices in veterinary counseling and wellbeing agendas within colleges, and provide counsel and expertise to veterinary leadership. Recently, she helped launch the AVMA’s Workplace Wellbeing Certificate Program to support veterinary professionals in developing the knowledge and skills needed to create healthy work systems and AVMA’s Brave Space Certificate Program which explores the impact of stereotyping, unconscious bias, and workplace harassment.

In 2020, Dr. Brandt was elected as a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice (NAP) in Social Work. She received her Ph.D. and Master of Social Work from The Ohio State University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and Sociology with a Minor in Spanish from the University of Indianapolis.

Marci Kirk, DVM
Assistant Director—Recent Graduate Initiatives
American Veterinary Medical Association

Dr. Marci Kirk is a 2011 graduate from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. She practiced small animal medicine for five years before joining the staff at the AVMA where she is currently the Assistant Director for Recent Graduate Initiatives. Prior to transitioning out of private practice, Dr. Kirk was a member of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association’s inaugural Power of 10 class. This program sparked a passion for leadership and helping others achieve their goals. Through her work at the AVMA, Dr. Kirk provides staff support to the Early Career Development Committee and is a co‐host of AVMA’s My Veterinary Life Podcast. Outside of work, Dr. Kirk is an avid runner and enjoys traveling with her husband, especially to Walt Disney World and usually for a race weekend. She also shares her home and most of her social media posts with her two dogs- Charlie, the best good boy and Bucky, the aspiring good boy.

Joseph Hahn, DVM, BBAW
Executive Director of the US Companion Animal and Equine Professional Services
Merck Animal Health

Dr. Hahn has been with Merck Animal Health for 12 years with roles of increasing responsibility. He started with us in the field as a Professional Services Veterinarian and then as Associate Director of Professional Services for the Midwest/West Zone. Most recently, Dr. Hahn served as Director of the U.S. Companion Animal & Equine Pharmacovigilance team, where he amplified the customer experience and expanded connections with the field force through collaborating on forward-thinking initiatives, such as the Nobivac® Relief Plan and automatic download of case reports into the MAXX system. Not to mention, he has also assisted with Learning & Development to deliver new hire training courses.

Prior to Merck, Dr. Hahn was in practice for 10 years where he gained experience working with everything from large corporate practices to small-single doctor clinics. He also worked with Chicago Veterinary Emergency Services, which was the cityʼs only emergency clinic at the time that saw an average of 120 caseloads per month.

Dr. Hahn received his DVM degree from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. He is an avid cyclist and member of the “Peloton Club,” (so let him know when you want to meet for a virtual ride). He currently resides in Chicago and is looking forward to the warmer months when he can get outside.

Katie Parla

Katie Parla is an Italy-based food and beverage writer, culinary guide, educator, and award-winning cookbook author. She is the cohost of the Gola podcast about Italian food and culture and regularly appears as an Italy expert on CNN, the Travel Channel, and the History Channel. Her Emmy-nominated TV program “Katie Parla’s Rome” airs on Recipe.TV.

Originally from New Jersey, she has an art history degree from Yale, a master’s degree in Italian Gastronomic Culture from the Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”, a sommelier certificate from the Federazione Italiana Sommelier Albergatori Ristoratori, and an archeological speleology certification from the city of Rome.

Katie’s mission is to highlight great food and beverages, praise the people dedicated to feeding us well, and to get readers talking about what they are eating and drinking. She focuses special attention on Rome, threats to local food culture, and critical reviews of restaurants and trends.

In her latest cookbook, Food of the Italian South, Katie shares rich recipes and historical and cultural insights that encapsulate the miles of rugged beaches, sheep-dotted mountains, meditatively quiet towns, and, most important, culinary traditions unique to this precious piece of Italy.