Meet the folks who make it all happen. We see big potential in every moment, and care deeply about what we do every day.
If you looked up the word ‘dedication’ in the dictionary, chances are you’d find a picture of Julia, who has served as the beloved Office Manager here at Hiawassee Animal Hospital since Dr. Vardeman took over in 1989. Prior to that, she’d spent a couple of years at the former practice. For more than 36 years, Julia has shared her love of animals and passion for helping people with countless clients and patients.
Prior to entering the veterinary field, Julia had earned her cosmetology license. After living in Athens for a few years, she and her husband Wayne moved back to Hiawassee, and she decided it was time for a change. The rest, as they say, is history! One of her favorite parts of the job is seeing the happiness that fur-babies bring to people’s lives and homes.
In addition to being the backbone of our practice family, Julia has joined Wayne in raising two children, both of whom still live in the area. While they may have an empty nest of the two-legged variety, Julia and Wayne have plenty of four-legged “kids” to keep them busy, including four cats (one-eyed Captain Jack, Margaret, Winston, and Penelope), and a pup named Minnie. They also have 21 chickens. Julia’s favorite pastimes include gardening, cooking, canning, kayaking, and spending time with her family and her pets.
Director of Operations
Bio coming soon.
Becky was born and raised on a ranch in the small Midwestern town of Fulton, Missouri. From raising, training, and showing horses, to working as an animal keeper at a city farm park, animals have always been a huge part of her life. When tasked with caring for a severely injured horse, Becky knew she’d found her calling. As a veterinary technician, Becky is doing what she loves most: making a difference in the lives of people and their pets.
Having been a stay-at-home mom for five years, once her twins started school, Becky knew it was time to get back to her passion of helping animals. In 2016, she applied for a vet tech job at Hiawassee Animal Hospital and the rest is history! Clinically, Becky enjoys the challenge of drawing blood and running diagnostics. Solving medical mysteries and helping patients get better is incredibly rewarding!
When she’s not busy caring for our patients, Becky is usually at home, spending time with her fiancé, Anderson, and her twins, Jackson and Ava. Their fur-family consists of two dogs and three cats. Becky’s proudest achievement is being a mom and watching her children grow into wonderful human beings. She is currently working toward her Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management.
Having grown up with animals her entire life, Amber knew at a young age she would ultimately end up working with them in some capacity. When she was about 10 years old, she accompanied her grandmother to the vet where she witnessed Dr. Vardeman assist in the delivery of baby goats. The experience made Amber realize with absolute certainty that this was her calling in life!
Amber’s career journey officially began at the tender age of 12, when her grandmother talked Dr. V. into letting her shadow. As Amber puts it, after that they couldn’t get her to leave! She has been an integral part of the Hiawassee Animal Hospital team ever since.
Having grown up on a farm, surrounded by animals, Chantel knew at an early age that she wanted to one day work in the veterinary industry. Her passion for helping animals eventually led her down the path of veterinary technology. Today, Chantel is thrilled to be living her lifelong dream and loving every second!
Prior to joining the Hiawassee Animal Hospital team, Chantel was already quite familiar with the practice, as her family had been clients here for as long as she could remember. It was the perfect fit for everyone! Chantel is a valued member of the team and is well-loved by her clients, patients, and colleagues alike!
If there’s one thing Kristen loves about her job as a veterinary technician, it’s knowing that she’s making a difference in the lives of pets and their owners. Being able to speak for those with no voice is tremendously fulfilling and gets Kristen excited to come to work every day!
Kristen joined the Hiawassee Animal Hospital team in June of 2021. She just happened to be driving by one day, and decided to stop in and see if we were hiring. The rest, as they say, is history! Clinically, Kristen has a special interest in assisting with surgery. She also enjoys helping the doctors with diagnostics.
Outside of work, Kristen’s family consists of her dad, stepmom, several siblings and stepsiblings, a niece and nephew, and a whole bunch of animals. In addition to their two family dogs, Alice and PJ, and Kristen’s cat Archie, their animal crew also includes several pigs, chickens, goats, turkeys, and more. When she’s not busy at work, you can usually find Kristen relaxing at home.
Veterinary Assistant / Receptionist
Mareena has always been interested in working with animals, so as soon as she was able, she started volunteering her time. She even completed her high school senior project on the topic of veterinary technology. Eventually, her dedication paid off and she was offered a full time, paid position. Mareena has been working with Dr. Vardeman since 2013.
Outside of work, Mareena is mom to a sweet and sassy, beautiful baby girl who is her entire world – a little spunky “mini-me” who’s her very best friend. Mareena’s other interests include horseback riding and singing.
Bio coming soon.
When Kathy was growing up in Blairsville, GA, she remembers being surrounded by countless pets. This instilled in her a deep love and respect for all creatures, large and small. This passion only continued as she got older, and ultimately led her to seek a career in the veterinary industry.
Kathy joined the Hiawassee Animal Hospital team in August of 2020. In her role as receptionist, she loves meeting new people and their pets, and getting to know them on a personal level.
At home, Kathy lives with her husband, Mark, and their two yorkies: Riley and Maddy. Riley is a senior, but spunky for her age, and Maddy has a very unique personality. Kathy is also mom to four grown children and two grandchildren who keep her on her toes.
Like most of her colleagues, Kathy knew she wanted to work with animals from a very young age. She pursued her dream and became a veterinary technician, but as her family grew, life led her down a different path. Fast forward to March of 2021 when, after retiring from her job of 28 years, Kathy learned of an opening here at Hiawassee Animal Hospital and couldn’t resist applying. Life has now come full circle and she couldn’t be happier!
Kathy attended college to earn her degree as a veterinary technician. She began her career shortly thereafter at a small clinic in Georgia. A few years and several clinics later, Kathy made the decision to change directions and began a career in county government. Now that’s she’s made her way back to the animal care industry, Kathy enjoys interacting with a wide variety of pets and learning about interesting medical cases. The best part of her job, though, is playing with kittens and getting puppy kisses!
Outside of the clinic, Kathy’s home seems to have become an unofficial animal rescue. No matter where she and her family go, strays always seem to find them! They currently have seven dogs and twelve cats, as well as three birds, eight rabbits, four goats, a potbellied pig, and about a dozen chickens. In her spare time, Kathy enjoys cooking, knitting, and reading.
Growing up on a working farm right here in Hiawassee, Sara has been around animals her entire life. It came as no surprise that she would one day make her way into the veterinary field. Over the years, she’s encountered many beautiful four-legged souls, but the one who made the biggest impact was her Maltese, Molly. The unconditional love Molly gave over their 16 years together still inspires Sara to this day.
In her role as receptionist, Sara enjoys being the first point of contact and helping our clients enjoy a positive experience. She takes tremendous pride in treating animals and their humans with respect, kindness, and compassion.
Sara’s family outside of the clinic includes her husband, their four children, and their nine grandchildren. Between them, they have seven dogs and four cats. In addition to her love of God and animals, Sara’s personal interests include teaching, music, dancing, skating, spending time with family.
Prior to joining the Hiawassee Animal Hospital team, Susi spent several years in the advertising industry as an Art Director and Graphic Designer. Even then, she found herself gravitating toward animals, which were central to many of her campaigns. Ultimately, her passion for pets would draw her to the veterinary world. She started working at Hiawassee in March of 2023 and hasn’t looked back!
Susi has several pets of her own, including three dogs, one cat, and a dozen chickens. She is fortunate to live where there’s plenty of space for them to roam. And, of course, nothing beats fresh eggs! Susi’s personal interests include gardening, cooking, photography, working the farm, and playing with the animals. She is currently in the process of writing and taking photos for a family cookbook and plans on including a section for dog treats and biscuits that are healthy and full of fib
Debbie has always had a heart for animals, especially cats. After trying desperately to find help for the feral momma cat and her kittens living in her yard, Debbie was introduced to an organization called Catalyst for Cats. Not only did they help vet, spay, and neuter the cats, but the experience launched a passionate 25-year career of volunteer and foster work for Debbie. Through this, she discovered her true calling in life: loving, nurturing, and helping animals.
Debbie’s journey began in Santa Maria, CA, then continued in Panama City, FL, and onto Tampa, where she continued to be funded by Catalyst for Cats. When she was considering the move to Hiawassee, the new animal hospital was being built and she made up her mind that somehow, some way, she would work here. She met the office manager, sent her resume, and is now working in her dream job! In her role as receptionist, Debbie enjoys interacting with owners and their pets and showing them a little bit of love.
A single senior, Debbie shares her home with her FIV positive kitty, Girlfriend (GF for short), a black and white tuxedo who is very protective and territorial. GF may be sassy, but she and Debbie are enjoying a very happy life together. Aside from animals, Debbie’s other passion is gardening. She has spent countless hours planting, nurturing, and enjoying many varieties of flowers.
Kadie grew up in Towns County in a close-knit family who loved camping, spending time together, and most of all, animals. In fact, Kadie can’t remember a time throughout her childhood when there wasn’t at least one pet running around. As one of the kennel techs here at Hiawassee Animal Hospital, Kadie is putting her passion for pets to work, ensuring that all the animals in our care are in excellent hands!
Kadie joined the Hiawassee team in March of 2023. She enjoys working with different breeds of dogs and cats, earning their trust, and learning new skills. She has a particular knack for calming nervous patients and making them feel safe. Kadie is currently enrolled at Penn Foster where she is studying to become a certified veterinary assistant. She is also studying dog obedience and training.
At home, Kadie has three pets of her own: two mini-Australian shepherds (Coco and Nugget), and a rescue beagle named Daisy. Nugget loves to play soccer, Coco loves to talk, and Daisy just enjoys having a loving home. In her free time, you can usually find Kadie outside, either hiking, camping, or just taking the dogs for a walk. She also loves to travel and is an experienced martial artist with a black belt in Shorin Ryu karate.
Nimci has always been drawn to animals. During her senior year of high school, she completed an internship at a veterinary clinic close to her campus. The experience solidified Nimci’s desire to work with animals as a profession and she couldn’t be happier with her chosen career path!
Following graduation, Nimci began searching for job opportunities. She stopped by Hiawassee Animal Hospital to inquire about the possibility of working here, and the rest is history! As one of our kennel technicians, Nimci enjoys being able to watch over our kennel guests, making sure they have everything they need.