Meet Our Caring Team in Toronto
Our compassionate team of veterinarians strive to increase or maintain your geriatric or terminally ill pet's quality of life. We want to ensure your pet can be as comfortable and pain-free as possible. We will help you prepare for your pet's eventual passing and offer our support during this difficult time. Take a moment to learn more about us and why we chose to dedicate ourselves to veterinary hospice medicine.
Dr. Faith Banks, DVM, CHPV, CCRT, CPLP
Dr. Faith Banks graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 1996, and has been practicing veterinary medicine in Toronto, Ontario ever since. While working in a busy downtown veterinary clinic, she became interested in geriatric medicine and pain management for pets while caring for her own geriatric Bernese Mountain Dog, Smudge. After learning about the developing area in veterinary medicine called animal hospice, Dr. Banks knew she had found her passion.
She has completed numerous courses relating to geriatrics, animal hospice, pain management, canine massage and trigger point therapy. She has completed a Pet Loss and Grief Companioning Certification course through Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, in addition to certification as a Pet Loss Counselor through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
She is amongst the first group of veterinarians to be named as a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) through the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). Dr. Banks joined the IAAHPC and attends its conference annually to expand her knowledge of hospice care and continue providing exceptional care and service to her patients. She has written two chapters in a newly released textbook called "Treatment and Care of the Geriatric Veterinary Patient." She is a guest lecturer at the Ontario Veterinary College for the Art of Veterinary Medicine course on animal euthanasia. She completed her certification as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. Her goal in providing compassionate in-home palliative, hospice, and end-of-life care is to allow people to strengthen and lengthen the bond they share with their much loved pet.
When not working, Dr. Banks enjoys photography, travelling, spinning, reading, cottaging, collecting vintage flea powder tins and spending time with her friends and family. She shares her home with her husband and 2 teenage children, a chihuahua named B.D. (Baby Dog) and a lovable Bernese Mountain Dog named Maple.
Learn more about Dr. Banks' mission:
Dr. Karen Stekel, DVM, CHPV
Dr. Karen Stekel graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 1997, and has been practicing companion animal medicine ever since. After well over a decade working in busy Toronto animal hospitals, she joined Dr. Banks at MMVHS in 2013 and has found her passion working with families to provide compassionate hospice and palliative care. She feels extremely honoured to have the opportunity to do such important work, supporting pets and pet caregivers through the challenging geriatric and end-of-life periods.
Dr. Stekel is proud to have recently become a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) through the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, and is thrilled to be among the first cohort of veterinarians to earn this distinction. She also has certification as a Pet Bereavement Counselor through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
When not working, Dr. Stekel enjoys volunteering at her children’s school, reading, traveling, spending time with family and friends and making visits to a local geriatric care facility with her St. John Ambulance certified Therapy Dog, Lennie Briscoe. She shares her home with her husband, 2 daughters and their 2 cockapoos, Lennie and new puppy Rafael Barba (Raffi).
Dr. Rachel Ellis, DVM
Dr. Rachel Ellis is a 2008 graduate of North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to veterinary school, Dr. Ellis earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Vermont with a major in Animal Science. Dr. Ellis joined the team at MMVHS in 2015 and is honoured to be a part of such a unique and accomplished practice. Preserving the relationship between pets and their parents is very important to Dr. Ellis, as she supports pet parents through the difficult decisions that need to be made at the end of a pet's life.
Prior to beginning her formal education, Dr. Ellis worked in theatre for several years which took her from her hometown of Toronto to the United States, where she lived for 16 years. Dr. Ellis is delighted to be back in Toronto where she lives with her two cats, Flip-Flop and Eunice.
In her spare time Dr. Ellis enjoys playing tennis and baseball, horseback riding, attending all kinds of live music venues and sporting events, and exploring the city’s many unique neighbourhoods by bicycle. She also loves traveling and getting lost with her husband Luca Gismondi in new places throughout the world.
Dr. Sarah Pechmann, DVM, CHPV
Dr. Sarah Pechmann grew up in the Greater Toronto Area and discovered a great love for animals at a young age. She has always been fascinated by the unique and fulfilling bond between humans and animals. She has shared her home with all sorts of animal friends over the years, including chickens, rabbits, hamsters, a turtle, and of course dogs and cats.
Dr. Pechmann is a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. Prior to joining Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services, she worked full time at a busy local veterinary emergency hospital in the GTA. She joined the MMVHS team in 2017 and found her true passion in animal hospice and palliative care. She is delighted to be a part of such a dedicated team. Dr. Pechmann greatly values being able to support pets and their families through the changes that come with aging, long-term illness and end-of-life care. She is deeply committed to providing guidance and compassion during these emotionally challenging times.
Dr. Pechmann is a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) through the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care. She is also certified as a Pet Loss Bereavement Counsellor through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
In her free time, Dr. Pechmann enjoys gardening, reading, testing out new recipes and exploring the community with family and friends. She shares her home with her husband, 3 mischievous cats; Tumbleweed, Max and George, and a Mioritic Shepherd named Fred
Dr. Lizete Valdmanis, DVM
Dr. Lizete Valdmanis graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 2008, and completed a veterinary internship at the Mississauga-Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital in 2015. Over the past few years, Dr. Valdmanis has developed a further interest in working with senior pets and hospice care patients. Hospice care is a developing area of veterinary medicine, and given the many advancements in small animal medicine, helping to ensure our pets experience a good quality of life, through to the final stages of their life, is an important part of their care. Dr. Valdmanis is happy to have joined the team at Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services in 2019.
Outside of work, Dr. Valdmanis is involved with volunteering with numerous animal shelters and rescue groups. She enjoys the outdoors through hiking, skiing, and canoeing. When in the city, Dr. Valdmanis enjoys practicing yoga and playing guitar. She currently shares her home with her two fabulous feline friends, Arnold and Junior.
Barb Cook, Hospice Team Manager
Barb Cook joined Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services in 2017 and is our Hospice Team Manager. She brings lots of experience from her previous career in the healthcare sector and really enjoys the many roles she has at MMVHS. Barb found us like many of you do. She and her husband have raised two children and three handsome German shepherd dogs; Bear, Murray and Gordon. When Gordon was diagnosed with a terminal illness at the age of 7, they searched for a vet who would euthanize him in their home. She found Dr. Banks and discovered in-home palliative care. Dr. Banks helped them care for Gordon at home until his last day.
Like the rest of the team at MMVHS, she considers it an honour to help pet owners at this very difficult time. While currently not a pet parent, helping others navigate end of life care allows her to be involved in the lives of pets, just in a different way.
Barb grew up in a large family with a cat, dogs, rabbits and even a few ducks. She loves to golf, travel and cook.
Jane Welowszky, Hospice Care Coordinator
Jane Welowszky joined MMVHS in 2018 and along with Barb, Joanne and Jill, acts as one of our first points of contacts. Having recently said good-bye to two of her beloved felines – Charlie and Minky Moo – Jane feels privileged and honoured to provide support to clients navigating care options and end of life decisions for their cherished companions.
Jane has a wealth of experience in animal welfare and advocacy and her kindness and compassion extends to everyone who knows and meets her. As a Humane Educator and freelance writer Jane’s desire to deepen the understanding of the special bond between animals and humans is reflected in her editorial contributions in various publications.
Jane is excited to be returning to yoga after a brief hiatus, and enjoys powerwalking, discovering new plant-based recipes, and further developing her photography skills. She currently shares her home with two feisty felines – Bertie and Henny.
Jill Bergman, Hospice Care Coordinator
Jill Bergman is one of our Hospice Care Coordinators. She has many years of experience, living and working with animals, dating back as far as her childhood.
Jill graduated with a Bachelor of Education and taught elementary school for six years. Her love of animals led her to open a dog walking business which she operated for many years. At the present time, Jill enjoys the time she spends with her husband and family and their beloved dog Mr. She and Mr are currently in training so that he may become a certified therapy dog. Once he graduates, he and Jill will volunteer their time in the community, providing support to those in need.
Having lost two of her much loved Newfoundland dogs, Jill is very much aware of the emotions involved with pet loss. She considers it a profound privilege to be able to provide assistance to other families, grappling with the challenges associated with the end-of-life care of a family pet.
Joanne Sweers, Hospice Care Coordinator
Joanne Sweers has shared her household with cats and dogs for over 30 years. She presently has two senior dogs, Abby and Brandy, and knows how difficult it can be when beloved family members need extra help and support. She is honored to be part of such a kind and compassionate group of professionals working to assist other pet parents during this stage of their lives.
During her career as a stay at home mom, Joanne has been active in the community helping raise funds for many different hospitals and charitable organizations within the GTA. She is passionate about animal rights and welfare. Recently Joanne joined Critter Cabs Animal Rescue, a volunteer organization that coordinates the transportation of animals in need across the province.
Joanne loves spending time with her family and friends and enjoys cooking, going to the gym and playing the piano.