Meet Our Doctors & Staff
Dr. Chitra Natarajan
Dr. Chitra Natarajan, better known as Dr. C to her clients, opened Pets First Veterinary Clinic in 2012. She has been in practice since 1996 after graduating with her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Dr. C is certified in small animal acupuncture by the Chi Institute and has taken extensive courses in different alternative medicine modalities, including Chinese herbs, western herbs, and homotoxicology. She tries not to play favorites, and don't let the other dogs and cats know, but she is particularly fond of Dachshunds and orange tabbies. She also tries to kiss every animal on the head, even if they're not totally into the idea. When Dr. C isn't at Pets First, she enjoys playing tennis, improving her proficiency in Italian, and spending time with her family and friends. If Dr. C could have any super power, she would choose to have at least six extra arms.
Dr. Patrick Mitchell
Dr. Patrick Mitchell moved to Chicago in 2006 with his wife, Bethany, and daughter, Scarlette. Before joining Pets First in July of 2013, he practiced in Lincoln Square for 5 years, and before that, in Florida, Hawaii, and South Carolina. Dr. Mitchell graduated from Mississippi State University's college of Veterinary Medicine in 2000. His special interests in veterinary medicine include soft tissue surgery, senior care, and internal medicine. His non-veterinary interests include Diet Coke, cult films, and 90's grunge, which can be heard drifting out of his office at any given time. When he isn't at the clinic, Dr. Mitchell enjoys spending time with his family, including his three cats and rambunctious Husky, playing guitar, and exploring the sights and sounds of Chicago. He used surf all the time in Hawaii, but unfortunately Lake Michigan isn't very conducive to that hobby. If Dr. Mitchell could have any super power, he would choose the ability to teleport.
Dr. Erin Van Dokkenburg
Dr. Erin Van Dokkenburg has been practicing veterinary medicine in Chicago since graduating from Michigan State University in 2011. She grew up on a small dairy farm in the mountains of northern New Jersey, where all the family cows and barn cats were pets. She is currently in the process of becoming certified in small animal acupuncture from the Chi Institute and is excited to integrate alternative medicine with western medicine. Her interests in western medicine include soft tissue surgery, dental health, and animal behavior. Dr. Erin is owned by two hyperactive dogs and two demanding cats. When she is not at work, she enjoys practicing the mandolin, watching funny cat videos, and spending time with her husband, Kevin, and her son, Brahm. If Dr. Erin could have any super power, she would choose the ability to fly.
Dr. Matthew Schnabl
Dr. Matthew Schnabl is a Chicago native, and up until joining the Pets First team in late 2017, he spent nine years working in veterinary emergency hospital. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009 and completed an internship in Charlotte, NC, but came back to Chicago because he absolutely loves the city. In fact, he roots for all Chicago sports teams, even the White Sox (though he admits that he does so begrudgingly). When it comes to veterinary medicine, Dr. Matt is particularly interested in cardiology. When it comes to things not so veterinary related, he enjoys outdoor activities like running, going to Cubs games, gardening, and hitting the beach as well as spending time with his wife, his two kids who are still too young to realize their dad is a nerd, and their two dogs, one of which is a 120 pound Mastiff mix who's convinced he’s a lap dog. If Dr. Matt could have any super power, he would choose teleportation, but only if that included time and space.
Gia - Office Manager
Gia fell into the animal care industry almost on accident in 2006 when she began volunteering at an animal rescue. Her volunteer position eventually lead to a job at a dog shelter, and she soon realized she wanted to continue to work with animals despite her degree in English Lit. She became a veterinary assistant at an animal hospital in 2011, which is where she met Dr. C, and Gia followed her to Pets First to open the practice in 2012. Gia can be found working in most parts of the hospital - some days she is a receptionist, some days she is a surgical technician, and some days she is in her office sorting through administrative paperwork. When she isn’t at Pets First, she enjoys writing fiction, reading, brewing a lot of tea, and playing video games. She lives with her derpy Shiba Inu, Jasper (also known as Jerp), and three cats who drive her insane on a daily basis. If Gia could have any super power, she would want to be telekinetic.
Emma - Lead Veterinary Technician
Emma has been in the veterinary field for over ten years. She has a Bachelor’s in Biology, a minor in Chemistry, and is also a registered nurse and certified phlebotomist. To the vet industry’s benefit, Emma decided she actually preferred working with animals, and she joined the Pets First team in 2013. Emma not only offers support to the veterinarians, but also assists in surgery and helps train new staff interested in improving their technician skills because hers are superb. In her free time, Emma peruses rescue websites in her hunt for the perfect dog, tries out new vegan recipes, and enjoys photography. If Emma could have any super power, she would want the ability to heal others.
Erika - Lead Surgical Veterinary Technician
Erika started out pursuing a Criminal Justice degree in college, but after attending a tour at the Vet Tech Institute with a friend, she realized she wanted to work with animals and immediately checked in to see if it was too late for her to apply. Erika began working at Pets First at the beginning of 2017, and you can usually find her assisting in surgery or helping with treatments behind the scenes. She is especially interested in emergency and specialty medicine. In her free time, Erika enjoys reading comic books and being involved in anything super-hero related. She has two dogs, a Pit Bull who likes to lounge in bed, and a Shih Tzu mix whose main interests are food and toys. If Erika could have a super power, she would either want a photographic memory or telekinetic power.
Melissa - Veterinary Technician
Melissa graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology while she was at MSU and stumbled into the veterinary field after graduating. She answered an ad for a veterinary technician position, which ended up requiring an 11-week training period that included lectures and exams. 12 years, two states, and four clinics later, Melissa is thrilled that she answered that ad. She joined Pets First at the end of 2012 as a full-time technician, though she has recently dropped her hours to weekends only after her daughter was born. In her free time, Melissa enjoys camping and visiting museums with her husband and daughter, and spends a lot of time involved in toddler swim, art, and dance classes. Melissa and her family do have a Schnauzer companion, Gracie, who has reluctantly given up her only child status. If Melissa could have any super power, she would choose to be able to get Gracie to stop barking.
Jamie- Veterinary Technician
Jamie graduated from Fox College with an Associates Degree in Applied Science that focused on veterinary medicine. She's been a technician for over eleven years now, and her longterm goal is to become a certified veterinary technician. After that, she hopes to become a veterinary technician specialist in anesthesia and analgesia because she absolutely loves surgery. Outside of the clinic, Jamie likes to foster pets in need, and her hobbies include collecting vinyl records, antiquing, going to concerts, and snuggling with her animals, of which she has five - two Frenchies (Sylvia and Punchie), two Sphynx cats (Nellie and Newton), and a very sweet Himalayan named Sutton. If Jamie could have any super power, it would be to grant wishes for others - phenomenal cosmic power, but hopefully without the itty bitty living space.
Emily - Veterinary Technician
Emily joined the Pets First team in the summer of 2016. She has a BS in Biology from Northland college, and can remember wanting to work in the veterinary field for as long as she can... well, remember. While Emily started at Pets First as a veterinary assistant, she’s worked hard to improve her knowledge and technical skills and has finally earned the name tag deeming her a full-fledged technician. Her veterinary interests include infectious diseases, and her non-veterinary interests include sewing, video games, and taking selfies. Emily is owned by a Pekenese named Mu, a cat named Squirrel, and various foster kittens that she opens her home to. If Emily could have any super power, she would want to be able to teleport over any distance.
Alex - Veterinary Technician
Alex is the newest technician to join the Pets First team. He studied video production in his home state of Michigan, but when he moved to Chicago in 2012, his lifelong love of animals lead him to a career as a veterinary technician. Alex enjoys making new dog and cat friends and loves forming relationships with owners and seeing their pets grow from little babies into happy, healthy members of the family. He especially likes assisting in surgery, dental cleanings, nutrition, and behavior training, and he aspires to become a certified technician. Outside of work, Alex enjoys cooking, reading, podcasts, and checking out new restaurants throughout the city with his wife, Mindy, and their friends. If Alex could have any super power, it would be to freeze time so he could nap more.
Jessica - Veterinary Assistant
Jessica's journey in the veterinary medical field actually began at Pets First when she joined the team in early 2015 as a kennel assistant. She worked her way up the ladder until she was promoted to a veterinary assistant and has since then become an integral part of the technical staff. Jessica continues to learn and aspires to go to school to become a certified technician. Her favorite part of being a veterinary assistant is helping out in puppy appointments because she loves puppies, but also because she likes building a rapport with new pet owners and helping them feel more comfortable. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys creating digital art, playing guitar, and thrifting - she hopes to get more involved in antique resale. She also enjoys spending time with her 11 year old cat, Mojo, who she's had since Mojo was a kitten. If Jessica could have any super power, she would want the power of invisibility.
Yesenia - Veterinary Assistant
Yesenia is the newest assistant to join the Pets First team. She's always wanted to work in veterinary medicine, so she spent her time volunteering at PAWS in college while working on her Bachelor's degree in Biology. After college, got a job as a veterinary assistant and has plans to go back to school to become a certified veterinary technician. At work, she enjoys snuggling our feline patients, as seen in her photo, and cleaning dirty ears. In her spare time, Yesenia likes to nap, shop, and play with her own pets - she has a dog and three cats. If she could have any super power, she would want to be able to read minds - specifically dog and cat minds, to be able to better help her patients.
Sarah - Customer Service Representative
Sarah recently graduated from DePaul University with a degree in Sociology of Health. She's relatively new to the veterinary medical field and started at Pets First as a kennel assistant, but has made her way up to the front desk! Sarah still has a lot to learn, but she's up to the challenge. While Sarah is new to veterinary medicine, she's definitely not new to pets - she has a puppy "brother", Charlie, who lives with her parents and also her "roommate", Evelyn the Doberman. In her free time, she loves to read books and write poetry. If Sarah could have a super power, it would be to turn into a coyote at night!
Amy - Customer Service Representative
Amy started working in dog rescue over ten years ago and then never really left the animal field despite her Bachelor’s Degree in French. Her interest in the medical aspect of animal rescue lead her to working at an animal hospital, which is where she meet Dr. Mitchell, and in 2013 she followed him over to Pets First. Amy recently obtained her Master’s Degree in Zoology, and when she’s not working her day or two a week at the clinic, she works as a full-time Volunteer Manager at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Amy has no furry critters of her own, but she does have four geckos and a pygmy chameleon. When Amy isn’t at work, she loves traveling, reading, and building up her skill repertoire - she recently became SCUBA certified and has been taking classes in American Sign Language. If she could have any super power, she would want to manipulate time.
Denise - Customer Service Representative
Though Denise graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a minor in Early Childhood Education, she kind of fell into the animal care world on accident when a vet tech friend of hers mentioned that her workplace was hiring. That was 11 years ago, and Denise hasn't left the veterinary medical field since. She loves helping clients and their furry families, and is a self-proclaimed cat lady - and proud of it. She and her husband have three cats currently, named Chewie, Sniper, and Zinger, but Denise hopes in the future to open a cat hospice rescue of sorts to help older and special needs cats that needed a home. She likes to sew and paint in her free time, and the Pets First staff benefit regularly from her husband's baking skills. If Denise could have any super power, she would want to run fast like the Flash!