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Our Team

Learn more about our team of professionals.

Get to Know our Doctors

Hilary Stern DVM DABVP

Hilary Stern DVM DABVP is the founder and owner of the Exotic Pet Clinic of Santa Cruz, the county’s first animal hospital devoted exclusively to the care of exotic pets.

Dr. Stern grew up in Massachusetts. After graduating from Yale University with a degree in history, she attended veterinary school at the University of California, Davis. During veterinary school, Dr. Stern was the president of the Avian and Exotics Club and spent her summers and externships working with birds, reptiles, small mammals, and wildlife.

Following graduation, Dr. Stern worked for a number of exotic pet practices in the Bay Area, focusing first on birds, then rabbits and small mammals, and finally reptiles. During her career, she has also worked with animal shelters, parrot and rabbit rescue groups, wildlife centers, and raptor rehabilitation facilities. She is a consulting veterinarian for The Rabbit Haven, Native Animal Rescue, and Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue. She has created and worked at low-cost spay and neuter facilities for rabbits in Santa Cruz County, and participates in the training of veterinary students and veterinary nurses on the care of exotics pets and wildlife.

Dr. Stern has been active with the Association of Avian Veterinarians since her first year in veterinary school. While on its Education Committee, she helped create handouts for pet owners on parrot and chicken care. She is currently a Member At Large for the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians and is on its Executive Committee. She is also a member of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, the California Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Stern is board certified in Exotic Companion Mammal Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). There are about 30 boarded exotic companion mammal veterinarians in the world, and Dr. Stern is one of them. She is the only veterinarian in California with this certification. For more information, see American Board of Veterinary Practitioners | The Standard of Excellence in Veterinary Care (abvp.com).

Dr. Stern’s areas of special interest include surgery, internal medicine, exotic animal dentistry, and client education. She and her family share their home with a naughty rabbit, two parrots (one naughty, one not), seven chickens, and a bearded dragon with half a tail.

Catherine Deng DVM

Dr. Deng grew up in San Jose, California, and attended UC Davis for both undergraduate and veterinary school. During her years there, she fostered rabbits with Sacramento’s House Rabbit Society and volunteered at the California Raptor Center.

After graduation, she completed a small animal rotating internship in New Jersey and then an exotic animal internship in Arizona, where she worked exclusively with small mammals (rabbits, rodents, ferrets, hedgehogs, sugar gliders), reptiles, and birds.

In addition to clinical practice, she enjoys wildlife and shelter medicine. Outside of work, she enjoys indoor rock climbing, browsing libraries, balcony gardening, video games, and trying new foods! She has two bonded rabbits (Mantou and Nanaimo) that have traveled with her from coast to coast.

Venessa Krentz
Practice Manager, RVT
Venessa joined the EPCSC staff in 2022 as Practice Manager. Prior to working in veterinary medicine, she held careers in finance, business management and as CEO of her Peninsula based company. Discovering a love of veterinary practice in the early 2000’s, she graduated with honors from the Foothill College’s VT program with a degree in veterinary technology. Venessa spent the following decade specializing in surgery and anesthesia for companion animals, equine and exotics. She is mom to three kids, a Great Dane mix named “Reef” and a blind Siamese cat named “Godzilla”. In her free time she moonlights as a fitness coach and certified nutritionist and enjoys outdoor adventures with her family.
Lisa Hopewell
Lisa reinvented her career in 2014 after finding a passion for veterinary medicine when volunteering in an animal shelter. She became a Registered Veterinary Technician in 2018, working primarily with cats and dogs. She has always had a love of all species and has worked with exotic and wildlife since veterinary technology school. Lisa has worked part-time at EPCSC since the fall of 2021. She loves to cuddle animals that are a challenge to cuddle.
Liz Volk
Liz has been in the veterinary field since 1998. She loves working with the myriad species that come through an exotics-only hospital and the challenges and creativity that arise from the differences between these species. In her spare time, she loves to hike with her 4 dogs, read and snuggle with her 2 cats, and looks forward to having a family flock of hens again soon.
Shauna - team member bio.
Shauna Garcia
Shauna has loved animals of all shapes and sizes for as long as she can remember. After an unfulfilling career in sales, she finally turned that first love into a new and rewarding career. She joined the veterinary field in 2016 at a small animal and exotics hospital. From there, she discovered her passion for exotic pet medicine and obtained her veterinary technician license in 2019. Shauna is a self-proclaimed ‘cat lady’ who enjoys reading, crafting, and going to local music shows or concerts.
Becca Carl
Veterinary Assistant
Becca joined the EPCSC team 8/2022 to widen her knowledge from cats and dogs to a variety of other species. Having started her career in 2007, this exotic aspect has given her a fresh new look on animal medicine. At home, Becca has a dog named Lewis, a cat called Flik, and a newly adopted teen rabbit, Princess Mia. Although “falling down the rabbit hole” has led her coworkers to jokingly assume she’ll adopt every rescue that enters the door. Outside of work, Becca enjoys family time, snuggling her animals and exploring the outdoors.
Katy Juhl
Veterinary Assistant
Katy has been working in the veterinary field for 12 years starting in shelter medicine, making her way into exotics in the last 5 years. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, she returned to Santa Cruz in 2017 after attending Shasta College for a degree in Veterinary Technology. When not working, she enjoys time spent with her daughter and friends, game nights, camping, and gardening.
Maya holding a opossum.
Maya Schults
Veterinary Assistant
Maya grew up in the San Lorenzo Valley and joined the veterinary world in 2021 as a technician assistant. She loves working with, and learning about, the variety of animals we see here everyday, while pursuing a degree in Anthropology. In her spare time she enjoys hanging out with her cat, writing, theater, and reading.
Perry Otto
Veterinary Assistant
Perry is from Santa Cruz, CA and is currently pursuing a B.S. in Animal Science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She has worked with a variety of animals as a part of her degree, and her love of exotic animals began when her family rescued four chickens when she was nine. In her off time, Perry loves hiking, going to the beach, and spending time with her rescued chickens, ducks, and budgies. Perry has worked as a veterinary technician assistant since 2020 and plans to go to vet school in the near future.
Amaya Pelayo
Veterinary Assistant
Amaya is currently completing her Bachelor’s Degree at UCSC, pursuing a double major in Biology & Art. As an aspiring Veterinarian, the Exotic Pet Clinic provides the perfect opportunity to learn firsthand. She has adored and grown up with animals since she was young and is excited to continue her passion for animals. In her spare time, Amaya enjoys painting, crocheting, and going on walks with her Pomeranian, Gizmo.

Amber Heek
Client Services

Amber was born in Holland and moved to sunny California at the age of 3. She has worked as a receptionist in the veterinary field since 2019. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and spoiling her very much loved dog Kodi. Since working at the Exotic Pet Clinic, she has discovered a new found and adorably reciprocated love for rats. She enjoys building relationships with clients, meeting their unique pets and making sure they feel welcomed at our clinic!

Client Services

Cindy has worked in the veterinary field since 1979, starting in southern California, working her way up to head technician and then Purchasing Agent for 3 busy practices. She moved to the Santa Cruz area in 2001 and rejoined the veterinary field in 2005. Cindy has a 50-year career singing in bands all over California. She has 1 elderly cat named Burt and has had Australian Shepherds most of her life. Cindy came to EPCSC opening day in June 2021 and is loving learning about exotic pet medicine!
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