Speaker Bios

 Vegetarian Summerfest  features experts in the fields of health, nutrition, animal rights, the environment, exercise and other related lifestyle topics,  plus talented chefs.   The following speakers are already confirmed, with more to be added. Please check back for updates.

Stephan Esser , MD, USPTA

Dr Stephan Esser MD, USPTA is a sought after speaker, author and clinician on lifestyle medicine, exercise and nutrition.  He brings an energetic, science based and applicable approach to his presentations. Dr Esser completed his residency training at Harvard Medical School and a Sports Medicine Fellowship at Mayo Clinic.  He presently practices sports and spine medicine including cutting edge regenerative medicine techniques in Jacksonville, Florida. There he is a member of the clinical faculty for Mayo Clinic, St Vincent’s Family Medicine Residency and the Institute of Higher Learning for Brooks Healthcare.   You can learn more at www.JaxStemCell.com and www.esserhealth.com.  Dr Esser is a 4th generation vegetarian/vegan and his family has been leading the charge in plant based nutrition since the 1930’s.  

Chef GW Chew

GW Chew, aka Chef Chew, is a vegan food inventor/restaurateur for over 15 years.  His mission is to change lives one chew @ a time, and to bring holistic solutions to urban communities. He has developed his own line of plant protein, entitled Better Chew, which help meat-eaters transition into a vegan lifestyle. He recently founded The Veg Hub Restaurant, a social enterprise that provides affordable and delicious vegan food, and free cooking classes to the San Francisco Bay Area. Chef Chew has his own Cooking Show, called Chew’s Challenge, and loves to share the good news of health.

Kim Allan Williams, MD, MACC, FAHA, MASNC, FESC

Vegan Cardiologist; completed his internal medicine residency at Emory University, and overlapping fellowships in cardiology, clinical pharmacology, and nuclear medicine at the University of Chicago; board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases, nuclear medicine, nuclear cardiology and cardiovascular computed tomography; joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1986; served as professor of medicine and radiology and director of nuclear cardiology at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine until 2010, when he became the Dorothy Susan Timmis Endowed Professor and chair of the division of cardiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine; In 2013, Williams assumed the position of James B. Herrick Professor and chief of the division of cardiology at Rush University Medical Center;  past president of the  American College of Cardiology

Joel Kahn, MD

Preventive Cardiologist; Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine; Founder, Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity; author of The Whole Heart Solution (PBS special); co-author of Vegan Sex;  author of  The Plant-Based Solution: America’s Healthy Heart Doc’s Plan to Power Your Health; devoted vegan, athlete and yoga practitioner.  Owner, GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale, MI. 

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Jenny  Brown

 Longtime animal rights activist and Founder of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in New York—one the country’s most recognized and respected sanctuaries for farmed animals. Previously she had worked in film and television, but an experience in Texas going undercover to document stockyard conditions led her to change course and dedicate her life to helping these animals. After 12 years, Jenny left the sanctuary to focus on a national lecture tour, raising awareness about the plight of animals used and abused in food production. Jenny’s story and the work of the sanctuary has been featured in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, CNN, The Diane Rehm Show and more. She is the author of The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight For Farm Animals 

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Michael Klaper, MD

He is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago and has practiced acute care medicine in Hawaii, Canada, California, Florida and New Zealand. Far more fulfilling to him is his current practice, focusing on health-promoting food and lifestyle choices to help people stay out of hospitals and off of operating tables. A long-time radio host and a pilot, he has served as nutrition advisor to NASA’s programs for space colonists on the Moon and Mars and on the Nutrition Task Force of the American Medical Students Association. To improve the health of his patients as well as his own, and to minimize suffering of sentient beings, He adopted a plant-based diet in 1981. 

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Anthony Lim, MD, JD

Medical Director of the McDougall Program; Staff Physician at TrueNorth Health Center; Physician Leader of the Plant-Based Support Group at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa; Board-Certified Family Physician; Licensed Attorney in the State of California; has spoken widely at local and national conferences on a whole-food, plant-based diet and healthy lifestyle; graduate of Stanford University, Harvard Law School, Boston University School of Medicine, and Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency; gave series of plant-based lectures at his local church; Crossfit newbie; devoted husband and father of two wonderful children!

Chef AJ

She is host of the television series Healthy Living with CHEF AJ which airs on Foody TV; author of Unprocessed: How to Achieve Vibrant Health and Your Ideal Weight and The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss: A Revolutionary Approach to Conquer Cravings, Overcome Food Addiction and Lose Weight Without Going Hungry; creator of the Ultimate Weight Loss Program; Healthy Taste of LA and the YouTube cooking show The Chef and the Dietitian; holds a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell University and is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

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Jamie Kane, MD

He is board certified in Internal Medicine and is a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and an M.D. from SUNY Downstate College of Medicine prior to completing his residency training in Internal Medicine at Yale University. In addition to being the director for Northwell Health’s Center for Weight Management, he is an Assistant Professor in the department of medicine at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and serves as the chief of its section of Obesity Medicine

Linda Carney, MD

She  practices family medicine in Buda, TX, is board-certified by ABEM and also by ABLM in Lifestyle Medicine, where she specializes in more health with less drugs. Her patients learn to reverse or control diseases like lupus, Crohn’s, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol levels. She enjoyed working with some experts from Forks Over Knives when she was hired by Rip Esselstyn as the first Medical Director for his Engine 2 Immersions, held for the team members of Whole Foods Market. Her patients’ success stories may be viewed at www.DrCarney.com, where she blogs on current medical discoveries of how a low-fat diet rich in whole plant foods optimizes health.

Maribeth Abrams, MS, CNC

Certified Nutritional Consultant; Certified Holistic Health Practitioner; Certified Lifestyle Educator; author of The 4-Ingredient Vegan and Tofu 1-2-3; NAVS Board Member; Associate Editor Vegetarian Voice magazine; vegan for 20 years; mother of two teens vegan since birth.

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Chris  Abreu-Suzuki, PhD

Math Professor, co-author of The Vegan Guide to NYC with Prof. Rynn Berry; ethical vegetarian since 1977, vegan since1992, frugivore since1996. In 1994, Chris met Rynn at a refuge for farm animals, Farm Sanctuary, NY, and in 2003 Chris & Rynn acted his 1st historical vegan-play on Leonardo Da Vinci’s life as in Rynn’s book Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes.

Ed Adams

Formerly taught mathematics at a high school and technical college in Wisconsin, and also worked as a student services counselor at the technical college. He developed an interest in line dancing as a hobby and has now been dancing for about ten years. He line dances regularly three times a week and has been teaching line dancing for about two years. Adams lives on a tree farm in Wisconsin and, with his wife Helen, is engaged in conservation. projects benefiting native and migratory birds, animals, and the environment.

Mark Agrusti, E-RYT 200/RYT 500

Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga Teacher; Co-Founder of Yoga Lab. Collaborator on mindfulness-based interventions with the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State University. He is a long-term practioner of mindfulness & self-inquiry and has completed 1000+ hours of yoga training across a variety of styles. Mark’s teachings are insightful, practical, and accessible; inspiring students with a sense of curiosity to uncover strength, joy, compassion, patience, and resilience within their everyday lives. He offers classes, workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings in the northeast region.

Jonathan  Balcombe, PhD

Biologist; life-long animal advocate; author, Pleasurable Kingdom (first in-depth examination of animals’ capacity to enjoy life), Second Nature, and The Exultant Ark (present animals in a new light and presage a revolution in the human-animal relationship); author of the New York Times best-seller, What a Fish Knows(explores the private lives of the planet’s most misunderstood and maligned vertebrates); Director for Animal Sentience with The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy; Associate Editor for Animal Sentience, the first scholarly journal of animal feeling

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Chip Ballew

Juggling teacher; with 20 years experience in the field teaching ball/club/ring/scarf juggling, diabolo, poi, juggling stix and other skill-toys and cooperative games; boomerang, frisbee, kendama, rola-bola, footbag, etc.; co-founder of the Vegetarian Club of the Ozarks; 20 plus years advocating for animals and veganism; vegan for 26 years.


Carol H. Barnett, PhD, JD

Co-Coordinator, Rochester Area Vegan Society; provides the recipes, cooking and food sampling for a six-week course in Plant-Based Eating which has reached more than 300 people in the Rochester area; mother of three adult children who are lifelong vegans.

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Ted D. Barnett, MD

Founder, CEO and Medical Director of Rochester Lifestyle Medicine, PLLC, launched in 2016, which utilizes the plant-based Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) as the core curriculum of a year-long intensive lifestyle intervention; Board-Certified Interventional and Diagnostic Radiologist; teaches a six-week course in Plant-Based Eating which is accredited for physicians by the University of Rochester and which has reached more than 350 people in the Rochester area; Co-Coordinator, Rochester (NY) Area Vegan Society; father of three adult children who are lifelong vegans.

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John Bolus

America’s sole instructor of Chinese Wand Exercise; ranked 1st in his state’s 5K races in the 65-69 age group, 5th in National Sr. Olympics; professional musician (keyboards) frequently performing at top clubs, including the Ritz Carlton; released “Naples Medleys”, a CD collection of easy listening standards

Patti Breitman

Co-author of Never Too Late to Go Vegan, How to Eat Like a Vegetarian, Even If You Never Want To Be One; and How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty; Founder and Director of the Marin Vegetarian Education Group; Co-founder of Dharma Voices for Animals; on the advisory council of the Animals and Society Institute; has been teaching vegan cooking classes for 15 years

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Harold Brown

President, Farm Kind, Ltd.; born and raised on a cattle farm in Michigan and spent over half his life in agriculture including three years in the dairy industry; featured in the Tribe of Heart documentary, Peaceable Kingdom, the Journey Home, his story is one of transformation from animal farmer to vegan animal advocate; works as an advocate for sustainable independent family farms, environmental justice, social justice, and peace through non-violence.

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Alan Clune, PhD

He completed his B.S. degree at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and his M.S. in Philosophy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is a philosophy professor at Sam Houston State University. His research interests and publications are in mind and applied ethics, with a current focus on Animals and Ethics. He serves on the Board of the Vegan Non-Profit ‘Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E’ in Houston, TX. He runs the Woodlands Vegan Meetup Group in Texas and helps rescue orphaned baby squirrels when time permits.

Jeffrey Cohan

Executive Director of Jewish Veg; writer of The Beet-Eating Heeb, a blog on theology-based veganism; earned Masters of Public Management at Carnegie Mellon University, and BA in Political Science from the University of California, Berkley; former director of community relations, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh; former print and broadcast journalist.

Eileen Wieder  Crone, MS

She is a Registered Dietitian, ACSM-Certified Exercise Physiologist, Registered Yoga Teacher and adjunct professor at Harrisburg Area Community College in central Pennsylvania.  She is passionate about sharing wellness, fitness and the benefits of spending time in nature with others.  She has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, bicycled around the perimeter of the US and studied yoga internationally. When Eileen isn’t hiking, practicing and teaching yoga, she enjoys preparing green smoothies and other raw, vegan delights. 

Marty  Davey, MS

 She is a RD and spent 10 years in private practice specializing in weight loss, diabetes reversal and childhood nutrition.  Currently, she is working on her second vegan research study, The NEW Soul Study, at the University of South Carolina as the Nutrition Interventionist.  She, also, works with E4 Diabetes Solutions.  She is the alter-ego of the international YouTube star, LaDiva Dietitian!TM   These gals wrote the eBook, You’re Not Dead, Yet: Nutrition for the Over 50 Crowd and 3 recipe books.   She is married to actor, Jim Fitzpatrick and mother of actor/director, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick.

Bill  Drelles 

Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance board member, Cleveland Vegan Society Committee Leader, runner and outdoor enthusiast, Lean Six Sigma practitioner

Juan Deguara, MS

He is a long-time vegetarian, geographer, world traveler, and presenter/author of academic papers on world hunger and food security issues .  He founded the Maryland Vegetarian Union as student; has helped vegetarian festival planners with publicity and event execution.  He has traveled to five continents, dined in over 600 vegetarian and vegan restaurants in North America, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia; visited over 20 vegan stores and/or lodging establishments.  Currently, he leads a monthly vegan discussion and knowledge exchange group in Washington DC area.    

Anne Dinshah

Co-author (with H. Jay Dinshah) of the forthcoming book Powerful Vegan Messages; co-author of Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake: Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook; author of Dating Vegans; vice president of American Vegan Society; managing editor of American Vegan magazine; professional rowing coach; lifelong vegan, third generation vegetarian, and mom to vegan son Clint.

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Freya Dinshah

Co-author of Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake: Kids!  Teach Yourself to Cook a great new book that inspires kids to make healthy snacks and meals; author of The Vegan Kitchen which in 1965 was the first U.S. cookbook to use the word vegan in the title and espouse the vegan philosophy; lecturer & teacher; lifetime vegetarian (56 years vegan); President of American Vegan Society and editor of American Vegan magazine; inducted to the Vegetarian Hall of Fame

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Mylan Engel Jr.

Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University specializing in animal ethics and environmental ethics; co-author (with Kathie Jenni) of The Philosophy of Animal Rights: A Brief Introduction for Students and Teachers (2010); lead editor of The Moral Rights of Animals (2016); he has developed a common sense approach to animal ethics, which he uses to defend ethical veganism and to argue that animal experimentation should be abolished.


Joann Farb

Microbiologist, and former biodecontamination consultant for Pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co Inc. Then an activist and founder of Vegetarians of Kansas City. Vegan for 20 years. Mother of two lifelong vegans. Her first book, Compassionate Souls — Raising the Next Generation to Change the World, was a primer for raising healthy compassionate children. Her newest book, Get Off Gluten aims to help vegan’s learn how getting off gluten can be beneficial, and to help gluten sensitive omnivores discover veganism for their health.

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Sarina Farb

Sarina is a life-long vegan and second generation activist dedicated to making the world a better place. She speaks and writes about growing up vegan and dealing with “pushback”.  Sarina was previously Tribe of Heart’s International Liaison, helping to make the award-winning animal films The Witness and Peaceable Kingdom: The journey Home understandable and accessible around the world. Also a science educator, Sarina is passionate about bringing ethics, holism, and true critical thinking into science curricula. She earned her degree in biochemistry and policy studies at Grinnell College where the also founded the vegan group AACT. 

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Carrie P. Freeman, PhD

Carrie P. Freeman, PhD is an Associate Professor of Communication at Georgia State University in Atlanta; she publishes on media ethics, strategic communication for activists, environmental communication, and critical animal studies. Her 2014 book on vegan advocacy is Framing Farming: Communication Strategies for Animal Rights (www.framingfarming.com). Since the 1990’s, she has volunteered running and participating in grassroots animal rights and vegetarian groups and currently co-hosts animal and environmental protection shows on WRFG-Atlanta (Radio Free Georgia). With Dr. Debra Merskin, she co-authors the www.animalsandmedia.org guidelines for responsible media.

Jennifer Greene

Presenter forBeyond Carnism, the organization founded to expose and transform carnism, the invisible belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals; author of Demonstrating Our Values through Eating, an ethical eating curriculum developed for church groups or individual study, with 100% plant-based recipes; creator of “Eating on the Side of Love” Facebook campaign; board member of Unitarian Universalist Food Justice Ministry; founder of Vegan Long Island Meetup group; volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and has been responsible for getting several CCL conferences to go all-vegan with their menus

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Lee Hall, JD, LLM

Lawyer and grass-roots advocate connecting vegetarianism with ecology and animal rights; board member of Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment (CARE) and co-facilitates Pennsylvania’s annual Chester County Vegan Festival; penned the “Vegetarian” and “Environmental Racism” entries forThe Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice; Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Environment & Climate Law and a member of the adjunct faculty at Widener University; Hall’s new book is On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century (2016)

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Amie Hamlin

She is the Executive Director, Coalition For Healthy School Food; wrote NYS Legislative Resolution that passed unanimously in the NYS Legislature in 2004 – requesting vegan entrees each day and nutrition education that includes information on multi-cultural and vegan eating styles; responsible for the first five vegetarian public (non-charter) schools in the United States (all in NYC) and a vegan option on the menu every day in NYC schools, oversees development of nutrition education curriculum (Food UnEarthed: Uncovering the Truth About Food), educational resources, and helping school transition to more plant-based menus; founder and president of Club Veg: Vegan Education Group in the Southern Tier of NY (Binghamton & Ithaca); founder of Growing Peace Farm, a veganic farm outside of Ithaca, NY.

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Frank Hoffman

Host of the website All Creatures, which is dedicated to furthering peaceful, compassionate living for the whole creation; retired pastor, pilot, scientist, vegan and animal rightist

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Sharon Jacks

Director of Interior Design for National Healthcare Corporation, 30 years. 25+ year passionate vegan cook and activist.  Raised two very healthy young men on a plant based diet. Founder and Lead instructor for Studio Veg Productions in Murfreesboro, TN. Specializing in health promoting, delicious, plant-based nutrition and cooking classes.  www.studioveg.com  Certified in Plant Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, Cornell University. Certified instructor for PCRM’s Food for Life Programs, including Employee Wellness, Weight Management, Cancer Project, Diabetes Initiative, Nutrition Essentials, and Kid’s Health. Holds certificate in the Wellness Forum Institute’s Diet and Lifestyle Intervention Course.

Ellen Jaffe Jones

Author of Kitchen Divided and Eat Vegan on $4 a Day and co-author of Paleo Vegan; former cooking instructor for PCRM’s Cancer Project for 6 years and a frequent cooking instructor in Florida health food stores; certified personal trainer, certified running coach.

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Kathleen Kinsolving

She is a 30 + year vegan and earned a BFA in Film and TV at New York University’s TIsch School of the Arts.  She has presented film appreciation classes and lectures since 1994.  For the past 10 years, Kathleen has been teaching English at Centreville High School in Northern Virginia, where her students enjoy such literature and films as the anti-hunting short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” and the great avian rebellion in “The Birds.”

Joanne Kong

Nationally and internationally recognized speaker focusing on the ethical, health and environmental impacts of veganism. She is author of If You’ve Ever Loved an Animal, Go Vegan, and has given recent presentations at National Animal Rights Day, Green Food Fest in Jessheim, Norway, Veggie Pride Parade in New York City, and Oakland VegFest. A volunteer and speaker with the Humane Party, her highly-praised TEDx talk on veganism is included in Unbound Project, celebrating noted women around the world who advocate for animals.  A critically-acclaimed concert pianist, she will appear in the upcoming documentary, Taking Note, about vegan musicians.

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April Lang, LCSW, SEP

She is a psychotherapist based in New York City. Part of her practice is devoted to working with ethical vegans and animal advocates, as well as people who are suffering from the loss of their animal family members. She is also an animal advocate, humane educator, and writer. She currently writes a column called, “The Relational Vegan” for the on-line magazine, LA Fashionista Compassionista. She is the author of the book, Animal Persuasion: a guide for ethical vegans and animal advocates in managing life’s emotional challenges.”

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Vance Lehmkuhl

Vegan columnist (“V for Veg”) for the Philadelphia Daily News; cartoonist, speaker, piano-player and all-around entertainer; founding member of vegetarian pop band Green Beings; creator of “Edgy Veggies” cartoon for VegNews; author, Joy of Soy (collection of his vegetarian cartoons); illustrator (created NAVS “Food/Friend” T-shirt) and feature writer for Vegetarian Voice.

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Bob Leroy, RD, MS, EDM

Founder & Coordinator, Plant-based Prevention Of Disease (P-POD) national conference; NAVS Nutrition Advisor since 1990; vegan since 1976; public health nutritionist & educator; fitness instructor; developer of nonprofit initiatives for continuing education of health professionals in plant-based nutrition; long-time activist promoting local food & economic self-reliance measures; advocate for personal & agricultural carbon-footprint reduction.

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Sally Lipsky, PhD

She has a Ph.D. in Education and Certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. Knowing the importance of day-to-day food choices in maintaining long-term health and well-being, she educates others about practical ways to implement and maintain plant-centered eating habits. She has authored articles, curriculums for healthcare providers, a monthly newsletter, and the recently published book Beyond Cancer: The Powerful Effect of Plant-Based Eating. Also, she is leader of the Pittsburgh Plant-Based Support Group in partnership with PlantPure Communities.

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David Madow, DDS

Dr. David Madow is a vegan speaker, dentist, author and podcaster who is passionate about helping others become stronger, thinner, healthier, happier and much more. He loves changing lives and has been inspiring sold-out audiences all across North America for many years with his unique, fun approach. When Dr. Dave is not teaching, you may find him running, walking, backpacking, skiing, or perhaps climbing up a mountain! Dave lives in Reisterstown, Maryland with his wife and cat.

Armaiti May, DVM

She is an integrative housecall veterinarian and vegan advocate practicing in Los Angeles. She graduated with a B.S. in Bioresource Sciences from UC Berkeley in 2001. After graduating from University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2005, Dr. May worked at an emergency dog and cat hospital and then trained in veterinary acupuncture through the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine. Dr. May provides  housecalls for dogs and cats in Los Angeles. She also founded a non-profit organization called the Veterinary Association for the Protection of Animals, to educate the veterinary profession about the benefits of veganism.

Jack McMillan

He is a long-time animal rights advocate/activist and a founding and board member of the Cleveland Vegan Society, which organizes the annual Cleveland VegFest, now moving into its 6th year, with an attendance of over 13,000 people at the largest venue in Northeast Ohio. We grew it from scratch, and you can too. All it takes is vision and some dedication. We’d be happy to share our experiences with you, and what we’ve learned along the way.

Milton Mills, MD

Associate director of preventive medicine with Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM); co-author of PCRM’s report on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

Lani Muelrath, MA

Award-winning teacher, author, TV host, and top plant-based vegan lifestyle coach; Certified Specialist in Behavior Change, Plant-Based Nutrition and Mindfulness Meditation Instruction; Lani has been featured on CBS TV, ABC TV, Prevention, USA Today, Huffington Post, and The Saturday Evening Post; presenter for Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Complete Health Improvement Program, and guest lecturer at San Francisco State University and Associate Faculty at Butte College where her book has been adopted as required text; author, The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight, and Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Workouts.

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Myriam Parham, RD, CDE

She is a Registered Dietitian, and a Certified Diabetes Educator. She coordinates and teaches multiple programs which promote plant-based lifestyle at the Florida Hospital Zephyrhills; is president and co-founder of Florida Voices for Animals, Inc. She presented nutrition lectures for Dr. John McDougall’s Publix program in Lakeland, worked on the GEICO research program with PCRM, has been a frequent speaker at the North American Vegetarian Society’s Vegetarian Summerfest, is a frequent speaker at local community programs, and served on the PCRM Professional Advisory board for many years. She is the mother of a healthy, active and thriving teenager who was raised vegan. 

Karen Phillips, VMD

She is an accomplished small animal spay/neuter veterinary surgeon at Pittsburgh’s humane societies. While devoting her life to the pet overpopulation problem, she witnessed the heartbreaking issue of unwanted farm animals entering the shelters. Her passion for farm animal activism was unleashed! In 2013 she opened Pittsburgh’s only farm animal rescue organization, Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary. The 501©3 nonprofit is now home to 125 animals ranging from pigs, sheep, llama, goats and everything in between! Her mission is to inspire the public about the sentient nature of farm animals and their right to live surrounded by love and compassion.

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John Pierre

Personal trainer to top celebrities and Fortune 500 CEOs, and his client list has included Ellen DeGeneres and Emily Deschanel; vegan nutrition and fitness consultant who lectures throughout the US sharing the principles of compassionate living to people of all ages; best known for his innovative work helping older adults enhance cognitive functioning, and his fun, yet effective approach to functional fitness; author of The Pilars of Health.

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Kathy Pollard, MS

Kathy was an instructor for the renowned plant-based nutrition certification course offered through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell for six years.  She is adjunct faculty for the University of New England graduate program in nutrition, and co-founder of SustainableDiet.com, which supports successful transition to a whole food plant-based diet.  Kathy serves on the Board of Directors for the Plant-based Prevention Of Disease conference. Her upcoming book, Climate Party! is about the connection between food and climate change. Kathy holds a MS in applied clinical nutrition from New York Chiropractic College and a BS in Mass Communications from the University of California, Berkeley.

Tim Radak, RDN DrPH MPH

Academic Coordinator for the Public Health PhD and DrPH programs at Walden University, where he has taught public health courses since 2010.  He previously served as Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetic Internship Director at Appalachian State University, Senior Research Program Manager for the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and Director of Nutrition for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  He has been credentialed as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist since 2000, and earned his doctorate in Public Health Nutrition at Loma Linda University. His research interests include:  the relationship between plant-based diets and reduced risk of chronic diseases;  epidemiology of chronic diseases;  essential fatty acids requirements and metabolism;  behavioral strategies for lifestyle modification;  body composition;  and nutritional assessment methodologies.

Mark Rifkin, MS,RD,LDN

Registered Dietitian in private practice, who focuses on whole-food, plant-based diets to prevent and treat chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression; MS in Health Education and has been conducting presentations on food-related topics since 1997; using good foods and great flavors, he also specializes in helping vegetarians and vegans optimize their eating habits; vegan since 1986.

Allison Rivers Samson

She is a Self-care Coach, Speaker, and Workshop Leader who helps people make room for themselves, turn workouts into personal playdates, and makes healthy eating feel indulgent.

For 20 years, she ran Allison’s Gourmet, the first online vegan bakery and chocolaterie, which she retired in 2016. Allison is an award-winning vegan chef and authorNia Black Belt instructor, mama to lifelong vegan Olivia, and co-creator of The Dairy Detox.

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Dr. Kerrie Saunders, PhD

Dr. Saunders’ unique background in psychology, addiction, nutrition, and body composition assessment is unmatched in the US. She’s a featured expert in the movie documentaries  iThrive Diabetes & Obesity Prevention and Eating You Alive, co-star of When Bachelor Meets Homemaker food demonstrations, and Founder of the Michigan Firefighter Challenge. Dr. Saunders is author of The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention, contributing author for RETHINK FOOD, and co-author of Guidelines for a Standard of Care for Preventive and Integrated Medicine.

Roberta  Schiff,  MS

She has been presenting at Summerfest for over 10 years. She lives in Rhinebek NY where she is a health educator, nutrition counselor and coordinates Hudson Valley Vegans, planning events and educational outreach activities.

Miyoko Schinner

Entrepreneur for 30+ years in the food world as a chef and creator of delicious, decadent, healthful plant-based food, Miyoko is dedicated to pleasing the omnivore’s palate in all of us; former owner of a restaurant and natural food company that distributed products nationwide and supplied cookies and pastries to United Airlines; author of the best-selling and groundbreaking Artisan Vegan Cheese and the just-published The Homemade Vegan Pantry—the Art of Making Your Own Staples; founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen, an artisan vegan cheese company, which set out to redefine the category of “cheese” with its unctuous, decadent, delicious flavors of handcrafted cheeses made from nuts; co-host of the national cooking show Vegan Mashup.

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Leila Sleiman and Natalie Fristick

Founders Leila Sleiman and Natalie Fristick began Pittsburgh VegFest and Justice for Animals (JFA) after they met protesting against cruelty in circuses and became instant friends. After creating JFA, one of their first order business was to create a VegFest for The Steel City. They wanted to bring the local community together and extend compassion to more than just dogs and cats.

Kay Stepkin

Kay opened and ran Chicago’s first modern-day vegetarian business, The Bread Shop, from 1971-1996. The Bread Shop was a 100% whole-grain bakery, with an adjacent bulk food store and a restaurant across the street. The restaurant is still open, now owned by two former employees.

She incorporated Go Veggie!®, a not-for-profit, in 2001 and, through it, hosted Dine Outs, Turkey-Free Thanksgiving dinners, potlucks, cooking classes and an 8-segment televised cooking show: Go Veggie!® with Kay.   For over 4 years, she then wrote The Veggie Cook, a syndicated biweekly vegan column for the Chicago Tribune.

Go Veggie!® is now DBA the National Vegetarian Museum, which opened as a travelling exhibit in Chicago and suburbs in 2017.

Michael Taylor

He  is a business executive with 33+ years’ experience selling complex and high-level projects to executives, engineers, influencers and users. Understanding the art of the sell, support and how a customer buys is critical to success. Michael uses these same principals in successful “selling”/converting people to veganism and with a high degree of success in keeping them vegan. He travels in North America, South America and Europe for business and also contributes to VegWorld Magazine as the restaurant “critic.

Marcella Torres

Professional meal planner, dancer, PhD student in mathematical biology, and mother to a thriving vegan child; half of the husband and wife team of competitive bodybuilders behind Vegan Muscle and Fitness, where they have shared their training and nutrition tips, recipes and more since 2009; co-owner of Richmond, Virginia’s only plant-based personal training studio, Root Force Personal Training, which seeks to promote a fit and active plant-powered lifestyle and shatter the perception that strength and athleticism can’t be achieved with a plant-based diet – the mission: to generate as many fit vegan role models as possible to get the message across that a plant-based diet isn’t a handicap in the world of athletics – it’s an advantage!


Derek Tresize

Three-time natural bodybuilding champion and WNBF pro bodybuilder; A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, is certified in Plant-Based Nutrition, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology; half of the husband and wife team of competitive bodybuilders behind Vegan Muscle and Fitness, where they have shared their training and nutrition tips, recipes and more since 2009; co-owner of Richmond, Virginia’s only plant-based personal training studio, Root Force Personal Training, which seeks to promote a fit and active plant-powered lifestyle and shatter the perception that strength and athleticism can’t be achieved with a plant-based diet – the mission: to generate as many fit vegan role models as possible to get the message across that a plant-based diet isn’t a handicap in the world of athletics – it’s an advantage!


Blake Tumbleson

Meet Joe-Vegan. A life-long consumer of meat, sea food, and dairy until the age of 46, Blake did the “possible” and completely changed his diet, and his life. Signs of cardiovascular disease struck fear of an early death from his stressful and unhealthy life. He discovered the right baby-steps by doing just a little something each day. Losing over 50 pounds and easily keeping it off for the past 9 years through a vegetarian and later vegan diet, he’s learned to integrate a healthy lifestyle into a busy work and family life. Just an average Joe who became vegan…JoeVegan!

Robert C. Victor

Former Staff Astronomer at the Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University, where he served for over 30 years; he still designs and produces occasional issues of their monthly Sky Calendar, and writes on sky watching for theCoachella Valley Independent, and for the California and the Michigan Science Teachers Associations; he received the Clifford W. Holmes Award for his “Major Contribution to Popularizing Astronomy,” and the Shiny Apple Award from Palm Springs Unified School District for sharing his passion and knowledge of the sky with students and parents.


Ariel Jing Xu, BS, LMT, RYT

Ariel is a Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation teacher; Licensed Massage Therapist in PA; co-founder of Yoga Lab Studio. Her classes combine functional movement, traditional Yoga postures, Pranayama (Breathing techniques), meditation, and mindfulness to balance students’ bodies and help them release into silence and stillness. Her practice and teaching was influenced by Chan Buddhism, and teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Ariel is a native of China.

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