Meet Our Doctors
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 superpower, she would choose to have at least six extra arms.
Dr. Patrick Mitchell
Dr. Patrick Mitchell moved to Chicago in 2006 with his wife and daughter. 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 to surf all the time in Hawaii, but unfortunately Lake Michigan isn't very conducive to that hobby. If Dr. Mitchell could have any superpower, 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 and two children. If Dr. Erin could have any superpower, 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 a 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 three 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 superpower, he would choose teleportation, but only if that included time and space.
Meet Our Support Staff
Yesenia - Lead Veterinary Technician
Yesenia joined the Pets First crew in 2018. She has 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, Yesenia 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 superpower, she would want to be able to read minds - specifically dog and cat minds, to be able to better help her patients.
Emily - Lead Surgical 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 Pekingese named Mu, a cat named Squirrel, and various foster kittens that she opens her home to. If Emily could have any superpower, she would want to be able to teleport over any distance.
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 superpower, she would choose to be able to get Gracie to stop barking.
Jessica - Veterinary Technician
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, whom she's had since Mojo was a kitten. If Jessica could have any superpower, she would want the power of invisibility.
Alex - Veterinary Technician
Alex 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 superpower, it would be to freeze time so he could nap more.
Luka - Veterinary Technician
Luka joined the Pets First team in August 2020 and is originally from Colorado. They have been working with animals professionally, in both zoos and veterinary clinics, since 2003. In their spare time, Luka likes to paint and make prints. While Luka doesn't have any furry critters of their own, they do share their life with a chameleon and a plethora of poison dart frogs. If they could have any superpower, they would want to be able to fly so they could fly with their pet Amazon parrot, Layla.
Matthew - Veterinary Technician
Bio coming soon!
Cristian - Veterinary Technician
Bio coming soon!
Amy - Veterinary Care Coordinator & Veterinary Assistant
Amy started working in dog rescue fifteen 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 led her to work at an animal hospital, which is where she met Dr. Mitchell, and in 2013 she followed him over to Pets First. With a Master’s degree in Zoology, Amy has been working at Lincoln Park Zoo for over six years, both in volunteer management and education. Amy has no furry critters of her own, but she does have three leopard geckos, an anole, and over forty houseplants. When Amy isn’t at work, she loves traveling, reading, and scuba diving - she volunteers at a local nonprofit dive shop where she helps teach new students, plans international group diving trips, and manages new volunteers. Amy is also working toward her NAUI Divemaster certification. If she could have any superpower, she would want to manipulate time.
Sarah - Lead Veterinary Care Coordinator
Sarah is a recent graduate of DePaul University with her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology of Health and Creative Writing. However, she has found an unexpected passion for customer service in veterinary medicine at Pets First! Starting in 2017 as a kennel assistant, Sarah worked her way to the front desk and is now our Lead Care Coordinator. She has a dog brother, Charlie, who lives with her parents and two cats of her own, Mouse and May. In her free time, she loves to read books and take cat naps. If Sarah could have any superpower, it would be to turn into a coyote at night.
Taylor - Veterinary Care Coordinator
Taylor joined the Pets First team in 2019 after needing a change from the daycare/boarding world of pet care. Taylor attended DePaul University and has her bachelor's in International Studies and French. Taylor knew Sarah from their time at DePaul together and Sarah recommended that Taylor consider coming to work at Pets First, and we're so lucky that she did. Taylor has been in the animal world since she was a kid. She volunteered in zoos growing up alongside her mom who is a zookeeper, and she carried that passion into daycare/boarding facilities, dog walking/sitting, and assistant grooming jobs throughout college. Taylor has found that the best thing about working with animals is the connections and bonds you can make with animals without a conversation. In her free time, she likes to snuggle with her 15-year-old kitty named Buddy, make art, listen to music, and travel when she's able to. She's a big fan of the great outdoors. If Taylor could have any superpower, she would choose teleportation, so she could sleep in a lot later and see a lot of the world in her free time.
Adismary - Veterinary Care Coordinator
Adismary joined the Pets First team in 2018. Adismary has been working with animals since 2012, where she first started working in pet daycare and animal shelters. At her first daycare job, she found a true passion for animal behavior when she worked to integrate the shelter dogs into the daycare playgroups. Seeing how some of the rescue dogs responded inspired her to continue her work with animals and animal behavior. As one of our Veterinary Care Coordinators, Adismary finds it to be the perfect opportunity to continue interacting and helping pets and their pet parents. When not at work, Adismary loves watching dogs play and interact with each other and spends most of her free time - during the summer - taking her pup, Drama, to swim by the lakefront. If Adismary could have one superpower it would be telekinesis, so she could move improperly parked cars in the Lakeview area to make room for hers.
Cassie - Veterinary Care Coordinator
Cassie joined the Pets First team at the beginning of 2020 as one of our Veterinary Care Coordinators. While Cassie has only been in the veterinary field for about two years, she is a quick study with a life-long passion for animals. A former resident of Kentucky, Cassie grew up around farm animals, and with a mom obsessed with wildlife documentaries, Cassie had Steve Irwin as one of her earliest role models. Cassie's favorite thing about working in the veterinary field is bonding with the animals and always finding new things to learn in the clinic. While Cassie is a full-time Care Coordinator, she is continuing her education as one of our newest Veterinary Assistants. Cassie has a special love for our geriatric patients. She has many furry nieces and nephews and two cats of her own, TinTin and Sabrina. When she's not at the clinic, she enjoys reading, watching horror movies, and journaling. If she could have any superpower, it would be to travel through time. She specifically wants to travel to the Mesozoic Era to hang out with dinosaurs.
Kristy - Veterinary Care Coordinator
Kristy joined the Pets First team in 2020 and is the newest edition to our Care Coordinators. Kristy has always been obsessed with animals. Her childhood was filled with an array of pets from fish to gerbils, turtles, birds, bunnies, dogs, and everything in between. Kristy was the student who always volunteered to take the class pet home to watch them during school breaks. In high school, Kristy took a placement test and was chosen for the Explorer Program at The Anti-Cruelty Society where she became an explorer/volunteer during high school. She began working there full time after graduation which started her career working with animals. Kristy's passion for animals led her to daycares and grooming, and eventually, the veterinary field where she has worked as a vet assistant, technician, and now a care coordinator. Kristy shares her home with her three tuxedo boys (Hemingway 15, Misfit 6, Emerson 2) and a four-year-old English bulldog named Orko. In her free time, Kristy enjoys a relaxing evening of Netflix crime and horror films with her menagerie. If Kristy could have one superpower, she would want the ability to teleport so she could travel anywhere.