Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Veterinarians in Tennessee
Our team provides exceptional veterinary care from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is led by Specialty Director Jeff Phillips. Learn more about each of our exceptional team members by clicking on their photos.
Jeff Phillips DVM, MSpVM, Ph.D., DACVIM Specialty Director | Board-Certified Veterinary Oncologist
As specialty director, Dr. Phillips helps guide and grow Animal Emergency & Specialty Center, ensuring a standard of care and the selection of specialists that best meet our client’s needs. As head oncologist, Jeff takes great pride in being able to serve patients with cancer.
“I treat people’s pets as if I was going through the same thing as an owner. If I give it any less effort, I wouldn’t be happy, so I try to maintain that level of attention,” says Dr. Phillips.
Phillips graduated from Pomona College with a bachelor of science in chemistry in 1992. He then attended Tufts University, completing a combined Ph.D. (Medical Genetics) and DVM program at the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences and the Veterinary School, respectively. In 2001, Jeff attended NC State University for a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery. In 2002, he began a residency in medical oncology while simultaneously completing his master’s in preventative veterinary medicine.
After completing his specialty training in 2005, Phillips accepted a position as an assistant professor of oncology and medical genetics at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. There, he served as director of clinical research from 2009 – 2011 while running the college’s medical oncology teaching and clinical program.
In 2011, he accepted a clinical position as head of oncology at the Animal Emergency and Specialty Center, where he has focused on clinical practice. Throughout his career, Dr. Phillips has also upheld the importance of teaching and research. Thus, since 2011, he has also served as the chair of biomedical sciences and associate dean of research at Lincoln Memorial University. In this position, he hopes to continue research for his specialized field, recruit strong faculty members to run an oncology program and create a robust curriculum for budding young veterinarians.
Jeff Phillips, DVM accepted the position of specialty director in 2017.
He lives on a 20-acre farm in Mascot, TN, with his wife, two sons and daughter, nine cats, four dogs, and 18 horses, one of which was a rescue blood donor horse.
Nikki Branam, DVM Hospital Administrator | Emergency Clinician
Dr. Nikki Branam is a native to East Tennessee. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Carson Newman College and master’s degree from the University of Tennessee, she spent time working in business before deciding to return to school to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian.
Upon receiving her doctorate in veterinary medicine from North Carolina State University, Dr. Branam completed a small animal rotating internship at Animal Emergency and Specialty Center of Knoxville. She then joined the emergency service in Knoxville full time prior to moving to Chattanooga in 2016.
While working at the AESC, Dr. Branam discovered where her interests lie. “I really enjoy working with owners and their pets – I think the relationships that I get to build with both are equally important and enjoyable. I am also really drawn to soft tissue surgery and the problem solving aspect of emergency medicine.”
Dr. Branam has combined her love for medicine, pets, and their people with her business background, taking on the role of hospital administrator for Animal Emergency & Specialty Center. Dr. Branam now oversees operations at both our Knoxville and Chattanooga locations.
Dr. Branam is a die-hard University of Tennessee football fan. She has one dog, Harvey, and one cat, Junior. In her spare time she enjoys throwing Frisbees and tennis balls for Harvey and relaxing on the back porch in the warm weather.
Jessica Leeman-Goepp, DVM, DACVS-SA Board-Certified Veterinary Surgeon
Jessica is originally from the west coast of Florida and went to veterinary school at the University of Florida (2011). She then went on to complete a small animal internship at Louisiana State University (2012) and small animal surgery residency at Seattle Veterinary Specialists in Washington (2016). She became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2017.
Upon completion of her residency, Jessica worked ER and surgery at Seattle Veterinary Specialists, and became a mom to two boys. She also served as the Surgery Internship Director and contributed to peer-reviewed journal articles.
Jessica moved to Chattanooga in 4/2019 with her husband and boys (Levi 4, Caleb 2). She loves teaching and remains active in her community by providing CE to local veterinarians and their staff. She is also the secretary of the Hamilton County Veterinary Medical Association and is scheduled to speak at the 2021 Music City Veterinary Conference.
Jessica is passionate about fitness and outdoor activities. Her favorites include weight-lifting, yoga, hiking, camping, and exploring new areas.
About coming on board…
“I am so blessed to be joining the amazing AESC team in Chattanooga! Everyone from Innovetive and AESC have been welcoming and patient, which makes the transition into a new position that much easier. I am excited to get settled in the new hospital and start working together - I’m sure great things are about to happen!”
My treatment style and philosophy…
“I believe that my job as a veterinary surgeon is to educate owners to the best of my ability so that they can make the best decisions for their pet and family. This often includes an extensive description of disease processes and all treatment options, which may result in the most conservative medical management or an extremely aggressive surgery. I am always happy to work with owners to achieve their individual goals.”
“Surgery is so therapeutic for me! I knew it was my calling because I love anatomy, working with my hands, and immediately correcting a problem in many cases. The diagnostic work-ups, medical management, and client relationships that typically surround my surgical cases are also a lot of fun and something I look forward to.”
Working with the Chattanooga public and their pets…
“Being from Florida, I am excited to begin practicing in the southeast. I hope to build strong relationships with pet owners and the referring veterinary community by being genuine and promoting open communication. I want clients to feel as comfortable with me as they are with their family veterinarians and I want referring veterinarians to feel as comfortable with me as they are with their veterinary school classmates.”
Melissa Miller, DVM Practice Limited to Oncology
A native of central New Jersey, Dr. Miller attended Rutgers University – Cook College for undergraduate studies in animal science and in 2005 went on to pursue a veterinary degree at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts. She completed her clinical year of studies at Auburn University and was awarded her doctorate of veterinary medicine in September 2008. Following commencement, Dr. Miller was selected for a small animal rotating surgery and medicine internship at Veterinary Specialists of Rochester in upstate New York where she trained from October 2008 to June 2009.
During the course of her veterinary studies and internship year, Dr. Miller developed a strong interest in medical oncology and elected to pursue advanced training. She completed a specialty oncology internship at MedVet Medical and Cancer Centers for Pets in Columbus, OH in July 2009. Following this internship year, she remained at MedVet as an oncology resident and completed advanced training in June 2013.
From 2013 to January 2016 Dr. Miller worked as a staff medical oncologist at MedVet, growing the weekend Columbus practice as well as establishing satellite oncology services in Dayton, OH and Indianapolis, IN. She was an intricate part of developing and managing the canine lymphoma bone marrow transplant program in Columbus, OH and holds a high clinical interest in ongoing lymphoma studies with transplant medicine and immunotherapy.
After moving to Knoxville, TN in February 2016, Dr. Miller joined the Innovetive PetCare group as a staff medical oncology clinician. She enjoys working with the dynamic teams at the Animal Emergency and Specialty Centers in Knoxville and Chattanooga and is excited to be a part of a leading specialty group in veterinary health care.
“Oncology is a truly unique specialty as it encompasses multiple disciplines and defines the concept of team medicine. When families come to consult about a pet’s cancer, everything is taken into consideration and a plan that fits best for that individual is devised,” says Dr. Miller. “When my own dog, Blue, was diagnosed with lymphoma in December 2015 this became even more evident in my day-to-day care of clients and patients. My goal is to offer everything I can within reason to families that wish to spend additional quality time with their beloved pets.”
Dr. Miller is deeply committed to ongoing cancer research as well as continuing education for clinicians and technicians. Her clinical interests are heavily weighted in the treatment of lymphoid and histiocytic diseases, alternative medicine, and immunotherapy.
DeAnne Fanta, DVM Medical Director | Emergency Clinician
Growing up in central Florida, Dr. Fanta’s interest in veterinary medicine began in high school while working at a small animal clinic. She explored many different aspects of veterinary medicine through her undergraduate and graduate degrees.
“I became most interested in surgery, emergency medicine, and clinical pathology while in veterinary school.”
Dr. Fanta received her undergraduate degree in Zoology and her graduate degree in Public Health at the University of Florida. She then moved to North Carolina to earn her doctorate of veterinary medicine from North Carolina State University.
Dr. Fanta completed her internship at the Animal Emergency & Specialty Center in Knoxville, TN. “I was very excited to join the team full time and continue to learn new things through my colleagues everyday”. Dr. Fanta also completed a one year surgical internship at Blue Pearl in Franklin, TN.
DeAnne Fanta, DVM lives in Chattanooga with her two cats, Chip and Howard II and her dog, Carlie B. She has a niece and nephew she likes to babysit and spoil. In her spare time she enjoys exploring new restaurants and spending time outdoors with Carlie.
Emily Belt, DVM Emergency Clinician
Hailing from southern Illinois, Dr. Belt grew up loving animals of all kinds. Her parents were always supportive and encouraged her to turn her passion into a career. She completed her Bachelors degree in Animal and Dairy Science at Mississippi State University, graduating first in her class. Having fallen in love with the southeast region, she continued to veterinary school at Mississippi State University, graduating in 2016.
During her veterinary studies, Dr. Belt developed interests for companion animal surgery, neurology, and emergency medicine. She was selected for a small animal rotating internship at the University of Illinois and it was during this year that her passion for emergency medicine was founded.
“Emergency medicine allows me to help clients and patients alike in a true time of need. Often, clients come in scared, confused, and sad about something that has happened to their pet. During this emotional period, I get to apply my life’s studies to quickly find a diagnosis, educate the owners about the issue, and find a treatment protocol that not only benefits the pet, but best fits the family’s overall lifestyle. To me, each patient is like my own pet and I give them the same level of commitment.”
After her internship, Dr. Belt felt the pull to return to the southeast region. She recently moved to Chattanooga with her two German Shepherds and four cats. In her free time, she enjoys equestrian eventing, spending time on the lake and river, and hunting.
Courtney Brunagan, DVM Emergency Clinician
Dr. Courtney Brunagan grew up in the panhandle of Florida and has always enjoyed working with animals. Her family veterinarian allowed Courtney to shadow him a couple times a week when she was in middle school. She thought he was one of the smartest people in the world knowing so much about so many different things. In high school, Dr. Brunagan started working at a wildlife sanctuary and loved helping and rehabilitating the animals, further dedicating herself to helping animals.
Dr. Brunagan completed her undergraduate schooling and graduated veterinary school from Mississippi State University. She did a rotating internship at Tufts University in Massachusetts where she found emergency medicine to be a passion. Dr. Brunagan stayed around Boston working as an emergency veterinarian for a couple years before deciding to move back toward the south. Dr. Brunagan worked at another emergency/specialty hospital in South Carolina for eight years until heading toward the mountains and Chattanooga.
Dr. Courtney Brunagan lives in Chattanooga with her wife and daughter, two dogs, Lex and Charlie, and cat, Mochi. They all enjoy hiking and camping, board games, cooking, and exploring the mountains around Chattanooga.
Danielle Bartulewicz, DVM Emergency Clinician
Dr. Danielle Bartulewicz is a 2018 graduate of Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She joined AESC Chattanooga in April 2020. She shares her home with a cat named Odin and two Labradors (Toby and Hutch).
In her free time, Dr. Danielle loves to be outdoors, to do various crafts and to bake.
Brittany Nettles, DVM Emergency Clinician
Dr. Nettles is a 2020 graduate of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to veterinary school she studied Animal Sciences at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Dr. Nettles was born and raised in the south; she considers Cleveland, TN her hometown and moved back after college. She currently lives with her three dogs (Bailey, Charley, Irish) and her cat (Brehm).
Within veterinary medicine, she enjoys surgery and wound management. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family, any and all college sports (GO VOLS!) and being in the great outdoors.