Our Team in Annapolis, Hunt Valley and Columbia
At AVIM&O, we are proud to have an outstanding team of internal medicine and medical oncology specialists. They dedicate their energies and combined knowledge as committed professionals to the care of their patients and support of their clients. Continuing Education (CE) also plays a large role in keeping them at the forefront of internal medicine and oncology, because the veterinary field is constantly changing. Our team of veterinarians and staff engage fully in their love of veterinary medicine and its relationships at an extraordinary level.
Dr. Mark Hitt, Internal Medicine Specialist- Diplomate of ACVIM
After a storied and successful career, Dr. Mark Hitt, DACVIM and founder of Atlantic Veterinary Internal Medicine is officially retired as of March 30, 2021. Dr. Hitt founded AVIM 29 years ago and has been instrumental in its growth from a single doctor practice in Annapolis to a renowned internal medicine and oncology specialty clinic with three locations, a dozen doctors and more than 50 support team members. He has been tireless in his pursuit of excellence in veterinary medicine. We thank him dearly for his years of dedication to the pets in our communities and honor him for his incomparable achievements.
Dr. Hitt plans to enjoy his retirement with his two grandsons and his three dogs, Darby, Macallan and Remington. He looks forward to leisurely days of gardening, driving his sports car and living the Jimmy Buffett life! Congratulations to Dr. Hitt.
Dr. Adam Gonzales, Internal Medicine Specialist- Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. Gonzales was a specialist in northern Virginia before relocating to Atlantic Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2005. He completed his residency training at the Veterinary College at Tufts University. He has strong interest in urinary diseases, along with diagnostic testing and procedures, and is skilled in endoscopy and diagnostic laparoscopy. However, he maintains interests and skills in all aspects of veterinary internal medicine. He is also an avid snowboarder, and has managed to avoid getting hurt (so far).
Dr. John Paola, Internal Medicine Specialist- Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. Paola is a native of Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!) and a graduate of the Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) College of Veterinary Medicine. He worked as a general veterinary practitioner in Pittsburgh for two years after graduation, before moving on to an internship at the Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!). This served as a springboard to a residency in small animal internal medicine, also at Ohio State. He passed the certifying examination for the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine upon the completion of his residency. After three years as an internist in Pittsburgh, he moved to Annapolis and joined AVIM in 1997.
A project completed during his residency allowed him to develop a strong interest and ability in gastrointestinal endoscopy and disorders of the GI tract. While other areas of special interest include hypercalcemia and hematologic disorders, Dr. Paola has maintained a broad interest in many aspects of small animal internal medicine.
Outside the clinic, his life is enriched by his wife and their two young daughters. The newest additions to the family are two guinea pigs, Snickers and Marshmallow. Dr. Paola is a very proud third-generation Italian-American, and recent travel to Italy has advanced his interest in the Italian language and all things Italian.
Dr. Janet Peterson, Specialty in Oncology- Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. Peterson is a native of Texas. She completed a veterinary residency in oncology with “the” Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She passed her specialist examinations in 1994. After that she has been recruited to practice in specialty veterinary cancer medicine in California, Texas, Kansas, and finally Maryland. She is now a happy “Marylander”. Dr. Peterson deals with all areas of veterinary oncology and works with the other specialists of the referral center as well as other specialists in the region to create an integrative multimodality approach to the treatment of cancer. She believes in providing and discussing with owners all options of treatment for cancer before a decision is made as to which plan is appropriate for your pet.
Dr. Kyle Renaldo, Specialty in Oncology- Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. Renaldo received his DVM from Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. He obtained his Master of Science degree at Ohio State University, where he also had his medical oncology residency. He received additional training during his rotating internship at the University of Georgia and during his oncology internship at Blue Pearl in Florida.
Dr. Renaldo’s decision to pursue veterinary medicine in college was prompted by an externship he did with the family pet’s general practitioner. Seeing the clients’ gratefulness and experiencing the challenges of the fast-advancing cancer medicine field influenced his decision to then pursue a residency in oncology. His own pet passed away from splenic hemangiosarcoma while he was in high school, and this prompted his initial interest in oncology.
One of the most rewarding aspects of working in veterinary medicine and oncology for Dr. Renaldo is helping people through difficult decisions on behalf of their pet, and experiencing the joy of watching them see their pet survive or at least have a significantly prolonged life after treatment. His ability to communicate with clients and demonstrate empathy in difficult situations is a key strength in medical oncology.
Dr. Renaldo does not currently have pets but is looking to get a Bernese Mountain Dog when his training is over. A Florida native, he loves the beach and living near water, and is also an avid Tampa Bay sports fan (Tampa Bay Rays baseball and Tampa Bay Lightning hockey). Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his extended Italian-American family from the New York/New Jersey region.
Dr. Alyse Zacuto, Internal Medicine Specialist – Medical Director & Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. Zacuto’s love for animals and passion for science came at an early age. As a 6-year old sitting on a Southern California beach, she told her parents that she was going to become a veterinarian. While obtaining her undergraduate degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara, she realized that her love of animals was not the only thing drawing her to veterinary medicine; it was also a desire to help people.
Dr. Zacuto obtained her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of California, Davis in 2012, and following this, sought additional advanced training and completed a rotating internship at the University of Minnesota. After experiencing a true Minnesota winter, Dr. Zacuto moved back to California for a rigorous three-year Internal Medicine Residency at UC Davis. Dr. Zacuto’s research and clinical experiences during her residency allowed her to pursue her primary interests of gastroenterology and liver disease. Her additional interests include immune-mediated, infectious, and endocrine diseases. She completed her residency in 2016, and with a desire to return to the ocean, moved to San Diego to continue her practice of internal medicine. After four wonderful years on the Pacific Coast, Dr. Zacuto and her family moved to Maryland to begin their new adventure on the East Coast, and she couldn’t be more excited to be here.
The most rewarding part of Dr. Zacuto’s job is helping animals with challenging and chronic diseases. She strongly values helping people understand their pet’s conditions. With greater clarity of the diseases that she is treating, owners can be more engaged in their pet’s care and together with their veterinarian be better at monitoring and managing their conditions at home. As a veterinarian, she values education, clear communication, and compassion.
Dr. Zacuto is the Medical Director for AVIM&O Annapolis and serves as the Director of Education for AVIM&O. In her role as Medical Director, Dr. Zacuto will continue to cultivate the stellar reputation for medical excellence at AVIM&O Annapolis. She strongly values the continued professional growth within our practice. Her role is to oversee the development and delivery of educational programs for our staff, technicians, and doctors, including the specialty internship role.
Outside of the clinic, Dr. Zacuto enjoys spending time with her family including her two dogs, a black Labrador Retriever named Julia and a Terrier mix named Floyd. Additionally, her hobbies include surfing, boxing, and sailing in the Chesapeake Bay.
Dr. Mariah Frank, Internal Medicine Specialist- Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. Mariah Frank was born in Germany on a military base and has lived at bases all over the United States. Her family settled in Maryland in 1994 and she earned a bachelor’s in animal science from the University of Maryland College Park in 2001. She earned her veterinary degree from Ross University in 2007 after spending 3 years in St. Kitts and finishing her year of clinical work at The Ohio State University. Following graduation she completed a 1 year rotating medicine and surgery internship at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Akron, Ohio. She then completed a 1 year internal medicine internship and 3 year internal medicine residency with Northeast Ohio Internal Medicine in Akron, Ohio.
When she is not working, Dr. Frank enjoys spending time with her furry friends: Meisha, (shepherd mix), Piper (Jack Russell Terrier), and Luna (an island dog she picked up while going to school at St. Kitts). She also enjoys horseback riding, hiking and rock climbing.
Dr. Dan Petrus, Internal Medicine Specialist- Diplomate of ACVIM
Diplomate American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine – Specialty of Internal Medicine Dr. Petrus completed an internship at North Carolina State University and a three year residency with the veterinary college at the University of Wisconsin. He joined AVIM after a 3 year teaching fellowship with the Royal College of Veterinary Medicine in London, England. Dr. Petrus has traveled extensively in the world, having lived and visited about every continent. This continues to be a pursuit in his out of clinic time. He also bikes a lot in the Baltimore area. Dr. Petrus has a strong interest in medical endocrinology (study of hormonal related diseases) and their interactions with other diseases and disorders of the body. But he likes all areas within internal medicine and sees a diversity of problem cases.
Dr. Natalie McLewee, Internal Medicine Specialist- Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. McLewee earned her DVM from the Ross University School of Medicine in 2013. She completed an internship in small animal internal medicine at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington D.C., and followed this with her small animal internal medicine residency at Mississippi State University. At a very young age, Dr. McLewee knew she wanted to be a veterinarian and began working at a veterinary hospital when she was just 15 years old. She is proud to know what her life’s purpose is, and finds fulfillment in her career every day. Helping animals and getting to know pet owners are very rewarding aspects of her job, and Dr. McLewee loves being surrounded by people who love and care for animals the same way she does.
Dr. McLewee and her husband, Kevin, have one son named Jackson, and two Pitbull mixes named Roxy and Hooper. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, taking trips to the beach, going to athletic events, trying new restaurants, sailing, and exploring her artistic side.
Dr. Tony Rusk, Specialty in Oncology – Practice Limited to Oncology
Dr. Tony Rusk is an Indiana native and graduate of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. He completed a rotating internship at Friendship Hospital for Animals prior to joining the onsite oncology practice.
Dr. Rusk has over twenty years of clinical oncology experience in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area. Early in his career, Dr. Rusk served as an investigator in clinical trials evaluating novel anti-cancer treatments in pets and has served as medical director for a multitude of clinical trials in pets with cancer over the past 20 years. Many of these trials have contributed to the advancement of anti-cancer therapies in pets. Dr. Rusk continues to serve as medical advisor for companies seeking to develop novel anti-cancer therapies.
In practice, Dr. Rusk enjoys utilizing his experience to help owners decide on treatment options for their pets. Always focused on the pets’ quality-of-life, he works with his team to outline treatment plans which may include conventional options or perhaps innovative therapies when appropriate.
Dr. Rusk is the proud father of two sons and is married to a fantastic small animal veterinarian. The family loves the beach and ski slopes, and dad loves all sports.
Dr. Rusk is available to see oncology patients in Hunt Valley on Tuesdays. Veterinarian referral and confirmation of diagnosis are required for new patient consultations.
Dr. Nikita Kakar Khanna, Internal Medicine Specialist- Diplomate of ACVIM
Dr. Kakar Khanna graduated from Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in 2016, completed a rotating internship at Friendship Hospital for Small Animals in 2017, and completed her small animal internal medicine residency at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 2020.
She always loved pets while growing up, which led her to veterinary school. Her internship along with veterinary school helped her discover the importance of critical thinking and a holistic approach, so she pursued a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Kakar Khanna’s training has enabled her to practice evidence-based medicine that seeks to not only identify and treat the underlying cause of a patient’s ailment, but also improve their quality of life. She enjoys all aspects of internal medicine, but her clinical areas of interest include nephrology, urology, endocrinology, and hematology.
Dr. Kakar Khanna and her husband Avi have a Lab mix named Phyn. When not at work, she loves taking care of her plants and gardening, and also enjoys yoga, cooking, and hiking.