Our Board

Dr. Julia Wilson -- President

Dr Julia WilsonDr. Wilson is the co-founder of the Equitarian Initiative, and serves as its treasurer. Her professional career has focused on large animal internal medicine both in academic and private practice settings. She brings a multitude of international and leadership experiences to the Equitarian Initiative Board, including 6 years as a director of Heifer International, 3 years as a director of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and 2 years with Veterinarians Without Borders. Bilingual in Spanish, as a child she lived in France, Spain, Thailand and the Philippines, always looking for outlets for her passion for horses. As a veterinarian, she has had the opportunity to lecture and teach in many countries and continents. She has worked as an instructor in both Equitarian Workshops, organized and led the 2012 Equitarian Project in Honduras in partnership with World Horse Welfare, and served as co-organizer for the Equitarian Project in Costa Rica in 2012. Married to veterinary surgeon Tracy Turner, and mother of two sons, she lives on a small farm in Stillwater, Minnesota with a herd of horses, dogs, barn cats and birds.

Dr. Jay Merriam -- Past President

Dr Jay MerriamDr. Jay Merriam has been working in Private Equine Sport Horse Practice since 1975.  He has a Masters in Equine Surgery from Auburn University and has been involved with Working Equids since beginning Project Samana in the Dominican Republic in 1992.  His work there and in other countries has led to his involvement as Chair of the AAEPs Equine Welfare Committee since it’s formation. He is the co-founder of the Equitarian Initiative in the AAEP and is currently the President of the Board of Directors.  With Dr. Julie Wilson and Dr. Mariano Hernandez-Gil  he began the Equitarian Workshops in Mexico. He is a frequent speaker on Working Equid care and has taught in India, Morocco, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and Indian reservations in the US. His focus is the provision of direct veterinary care, training of veterinarians and caregivers and education on the need for a healthy working equid population worldwide.

Dr. Rob Franklin -- Vice President

Dr Rob FranklinDr. Rob Franklin is a veterinary graduate of Texas A&M University. He has advanced training in equine internal medicine and has led and developed successful intensive care units in Florida, Australia and Texas.   Dr. Franklin has served on the boards of the Florida Association of Equine Practitioners, Marion Veterinary Medical Association and is currently an Executive Officer of the Texas Equine Veterinary Association.  He has also spent time as a committee member for the Educational Programs Committee for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Rob has lectured locally and internationally on equine internal medicine, published peer reviewed journal articles and written several textbook chapters on the topic.   Dr. Franklin serves as a board member of the Equitarian Initiative and holds a private interest in supporting equine-humanitarian efforts through his nutritional supplement company, Animal Stewards International, the makers of the FullBucket line of supplements.  He has participated in Equitarian workshops and leads a veterinary medical trip to Guatemala.

Dr. John Mitchell -- Treasurer

John Mitchell DVMJohn S. Mitchell, DVM, is a Standardbred racetrack practitioner in Pompano Beach, Florida. A native of Cadiz, Ohio, Dr. Mitchell gained an interest in veterinary medicine growing up next door to a small-town veterinarian. At age 3, he started riding with the veterinarian on farm calls. After graduating from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1972, Dr. Mitchell completed an internship at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Mitchell served as American Association of Equine Practitioners president in 2012. He went on his first Equitarian trip in 1996 to Honduras and went to Samana, DR with Dr. Jay Merriam in 2005 and the Equitarian Workshop in Tlaxcala, Mexico in 2012. Dr. Mitchell has two sons, Kyle and Todd, and welcomed a grandson in 2009. Dr. Mitchell and his wife Melodie enjoy family, traveling and photography. Dr. Mitchell also spends his leisure time fishing.

Dr. David Turoff

Dave TuroffDr David Turoff has been in equine-predominantambulatory practice in Northern California since graduation from the University of California in 1983, with an emphasis on emergency medicine, disaster preparedness and response, and technical large animal rescue. He served as the California Veterinary Medical Association’s Emergency and Disaster Response Coordinator for El Dorado County from 1999 until 2010, and works also with UCD’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team.  In 2001 he began doing equitarian work with HSVMA-RAVS, and has participated in or led approximately 30 trips to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico and the Philippines, and more recently Honduras and Costa Rica, and currently serves as member-at-large of the Board of Directors of the Equitarian Initiative of the AAEP. His area of greatest interest is dentistry for working equids, with particular emphasis on portability and versatility of instrumentation, and the development of techniques of dental intervention most appropriate for working equids. He has taught short courses in equine dentistry to veterinarians and students in Peru, the Philippines, and Honduras.

Dr. Judy Batker

Judy BatkerDr. Batker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. She attended the first Equitarian Initiative workshop in 2010 and since then has enjoyed continuing on with projects nationally and internationally. Judy travels to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota each summer to work with members of the Lakota tribe.  One to two times per year she also travels to Haiti where she is currently working on an Equitarian project in Milot, Haiti at the Citadel Fortress. She joined the board in 2014. When not planning and traveling, she is busy being an equine veterinarian and practice owner in Oregon, WI.  Most importantly, when not immersed in practice or Equitarian activities, she enjoys time with her husband and two sons.

Angela Varnum

angela-varnumA teacher at heart, Angie has been involved with the Equitarian Initiative since 2010 and with horses since an early age. While studying at South Dakota State University, she had the opportunity to attend the first Equitarian Workshop and to extend what she learned there to partnering with tribal members and rural equine owners in South Dakota. While teaching middle and high school Spanish, she continued to volunteer in Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Nicaragua, and South Dakota, with a specific interest in community partnership through education. A growing inquisitiveness in the relatedness of animal and human well-being and a commitment to promoting both of these responsibly and with cultural sensitivity led her to begin studying global health, international development, and veterinary medicine at Colorado State University. She lives and studies in Fort Collins, CO with her husband Brooks.