Meet Our Veterinary Team

Meet the veterinarians and team at Highland Animal Hospital. We’re pleased to provide exceptional veterinary care for your pets.

A veterinarian performing surgery

Get to Know Our Team

We are solely dedicated to your pet’s care! We look forward to getting to know you and hope you’ll take the time to scroll down and get to know us.

Veterinarians

Carl Fortna
Carl H. Fortna, DVM

Medical Director, Veterinarian

Dr. Fortna graduated from Lebanon Valley College in 1991 and earned his veterinary degree from Cornell University in 1995. After graduation, he practiced in Berks County until joining Highland in 2001. He currently resides in Berks County with his wife, Suzanne, raising four children and enjoying the company of their Golden Retriever “Remy.” Outside of work, he enjoys Penn State football, running, swimming, visiting vineyards, traveling, gardening, reading, and Shoofly pie. Dr. Fortna is a second-generation veterinarian following in his father, Dr. David H. Fortna, Sr.’s footsteps.

Brandon Mattson
Brandon Mattson, DVM, MS

Veterinarian

Dr. Mattson was born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin. He completed his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University and received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Masters in Preventive Medicine concurrently at Iowa State University. Following his veterinary education, he finished an internship at the University of Illinois and went on to work at an Emergency and Referral Hospital in Central Pennsylvania before coming to work at Highland Animal Hospital.

He is married and has four children. In his free time, he enjoys camping, woodworking, skiing, and scuba diving. What he enjoys most is making a difference in people’s lives by helping their beloved four-legged family members. He came to Highland because of the high-quality medicine and the connection it has with the community it serves. He currently has two cats, Cilantro and Cleo, and a Guinea pig named Thunder.

Savannah Merkel
Savannah Merkel, VMD

Veterinarian

Dr. Merkel earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Delaware Valley College. She attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2019. Following graduation, she returned to her hometown and joined Highland Animal Hospital. She enjoys spending time with her family, including their Quaterhorse Levi, their cat Slim, and two Coonhounds, Dawson and Red. She also enjoys horseback riding, kayaking, and trying new restaurants.

Paul Adolf
Paul Adolf, VMD

Veterinarian

Bio Coming Soon

Marie Weber
Marie Weber, VMD

Veterinarian

Dr. Weber is a proud Penn Stater and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She has practiced in the Lehigh Valley for over 35 years and has spent the last 15 years at Highland. With a special love for the hounds, she has enjoyed the howling and barking company of her own beagles, bassets, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

In her free time, she likes to hike, volunteer as a 4-H leader for Lehigh County, garden, and take art classes. Her most cherished professional achievement is the Distinguished Veterinary Service Award she received from the PVMA in 2018.

Kelly Sheasley
Kelly Sheasley, DVM

Veterinarian

Dr. Sheasley, a graduate of the University of Delaware for her undergraduate studies and Auburn University for veterinary school, boasts a diverse background. With previous experience in Eastern Shore Maryland’s large and small animal clinics, she thrives in the dynamic environment of an animal hospital, relishing the unpredictability each day brings.

Her love for the outdoors is evident in her passion for gardening and running or walking, often while cheering on her son during his sports games. She values camaraderie, citing the exceptional people at Highland Animal Hospital as her reason for choosing the hospital. At home, she finds joy in her two littermate cats, Thunder and Lightning, whose antics bring constant smiles to her family’s faces.

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Claire Bachman, DVM

Bio Coming Soon

Technicians

Sherry Stafiniak
Sherry, Veterinary Technician

Sherry has enjoyed being part of the veterinary profession since 1990 and she joined the Highland family in 1996. She enjoys hiking and reading by the pool, and yoga has become an integral part of her daily life. Whenever she is asked what she enjoys the most about this profession it’s that she is fortunate to be able to go through all the stages of life with so many of her patients.

It’s very meaningful to be able to be part of their journey. In addition to enjoying the work environment at Highland, she also enjoys being part of the Highland Book Club and Hiking Club. It’s wonderful that the Highland family extends to after their work day. At home, her shepherd Bella keeps an eye on the house while Brooke, our very independent cat makes the rules.

Jennifer Kugler
Jen, Certified Veterinary Technician

Jen has been a dedicated member of the Highland team since 1996. Graduating from Harcum College in 1992, her commitment to veterinary care has spanned decades. Outside of work, she cherishes moments with her husband and family, finding solace in the company of her three furry companions at home. A true adventurer at heart, she enjoys traveling, gardening, and basking in the sun on nearby beaches, always seeking her next great escapade.

Choosing Highland was a decision rooted in shared values, as the owners’ commitment to family and work-life balance resonated deeply with her. Joining Highland has proven to be the best decision of her career.

Vanessa Skinner
Vanessa, Certified Veterinary Technician

Vanessa is a 2008 graduate of the Veterinary Technician program at Northampton and Lehigh Carbon Community College. She completed her externship at Highland and was invited to stay as a full-time technician. Her pets include a Great Dane and her kitty companions. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling around the world with her husband.

Sam Kirka
Sam, Certified Veterinary Technician

Sam is a Licensed Veterinary Technician at Highland Animal Hospital and boasts a lifelong residency in the Lehigh Valley. Graduating from the LCCC/NCC Vet Tech Program in 2019, her passion for outdoor pursuits—camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing—matches her dedication to animal care. Specializing in geriatric dogs, Sam finds gratification in every opportunity to aid animals, regardless of size.

Choosing Highland was a natural progression as she embarked on her career journey during an externship. Enthralled by the warm reception and supportive environment, she seamlessly integrated into the team, shaping her commitment to excellence. At home, her furry family includes Buttercup, Baby, Tiny Tim, and the enigmatic Tigger and charismatic Grim.

Abby Brooks
Abby, Certified Veterinary Technician

Abby is a passionate Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) with a rich background in animal care. Since 2014, she has been immersed in the world of animals, starting in a kennel/doggy daycare before becoming a CVT in 2016. Beyond her veterinary duties, she finds solace in spending time with her husband and indulging in outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking during the summer months. What she finds most fulfilling about her work is the intellectual stimulation and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the animals she cares for, witnessing the gratitude of their owners.

Choosing Highland was an easy decision for her, as she was drawn by its commitment to excellence in veterinary medicine and the supportive community of like-minded professionals. At home, her beloved companion Chico, a 7-year-old Pitbull mix, brings joy with his adventurous spirit and love for outdoor excursions, balanced by his penchant for long naps.

Kaity Kistler
Kaity Kistler, Certified Veterinary Technician

Kaitlyn is a recent graduate of the Lehigh Carbon Community College/Northampton Area Community College Veterinary Technician Program in 2024. She has 2.5 years of experience in both general practice and emergency/critical care. She plans to continue taking prerequisite courses in order to attend Veterinary School to become a DVM. She owns both a spicy calico and sweet black Labrador Retriever. In her free time she enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, and anything outdoors related. She is very excited to be a part of Highland Animal Hospital and cannot wait to meet all of the clients.

Brook Seyler
Brook, Veterinary Technician

Brook is an outdoor enthusiast with a passion for camping, fishing, hiking, and gardening. Alongside these activities, she finds joy in spending time with her animals, exploring real estate, and crafting. In her role at Highland, she cherishes the relationships she has built with patients and clients over the years, ensuring their well-being.

Choosing Highland was a natural decision for her, as she wanted to contribute to the community she grew up in. Drawn to its small, private, and close-knit environment, she is proud to be part of Highland’s impactful mission. At home, she is accompanied by her beloved pets: Roo, Hunter, and Boo, who bring joy and companionship to her life.

Ashley Ruppelli
Ashley, Veterinary Assistant

Ashley is a dedicated member of Highland Animal Hospital with a bachelor’s degree in Community Health from East Stroudsburg University. Before joining Highland, she honed her skills as a pharmacy technician in a nursing home facility. Outside of work, she finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including watching documentaries, practicing power yoga, painting, crafting candles, paddleboarding, and soaking up the sun during the summer.

What she finds most fulfilling about her role is interacting with the diverse personalities of the animals that come through the hospital, knowing she plays a part in their happiness and well-being. Highland won her heart with its familial atmosphere and collaborative team spirit. At home, her two cats, Marty and Pickles, bring laughter and early morning excitement as they watch birds and eagerly await their breakfast.

Client Experience Professionals

Danielle Gasker
Danielle, Lead CSR

Meet Danielle, a cherished member of Highland Animal Hospital since April 2014. Prior to her venture into veterinary medicine, she pursued an associate degree in Early Childhood Education, enjoying a fulfilling career as a preschool teacher for seven years. In 2013, motherhood sparked a career shift, leading her to embrace the vibrant world of animal care. Danielle treasures moments with her family, friends, and pets, finding solace in travel and capturing memories through photography.

At Highland, she revels in the camaraderie with her colleagues, the bonds forged with clients, and the endless joy of cuddling with furry friends. Choosing Highland was a natural decision, drawn by the warm and knowledgeable staff who had cared for her own pets. At home, her heart is full with Kaia, the energetic boxer who gives the best cuddles, and Mango, the rescued cat overflowing with personality and love for her family.

Shannon Cranmer
Shannon, CSR

Shannon is a Customer Service Representative at Highland Animal Hospital. Though naturally reserved, she thrives in environments where she feels at ease, delighting in making people laugh and brightening their day. An avid reader, she finds solace between the pages of a good book when not at work. Her love for animals fuels her passion for her role, relishing the opportunity to learn something new every day while working alongside them.

Highland was a natural choice for Shannon, as her family entrusted their pets to its care throughout her upbringing. At home, she is accompanied by her beloved 5-year-old German Shepherd, Kyla, and mischievous 2-year-old cats, Fluffy and Rascal, who bring joy and occasional chaos to her life.

Grace Shafer
Grace, CSR

Grace is a compassionate soul with a penchant for home comforts and cherished moments with loved ones. Alongside her significant other and her beloved animals, Grace finds solace in the simple joys of life. An adventurer at heart, she savors beautiful days spent exploring the world around her.

Working at an animal hospital, she delights in forming meaningful connections with clients and their furry companions. Highland was a natural choice for her, drawn by its sterling reputation and the opportunity to provide love, care, and support to pets in need. At home, she shares her life with two cats, Jameson and Cuse, and a dog, Lucy, residing with her parents while she and her significant other care for their golden retriever, Max.

Emily Williams
Emily, CSR

Emily is a dedicated member of Highland and has a background in psychology. Graduating from LCCC with an associate’s degree, she continues her education while working at Highland. Outside of work, she finds joy in reading, cooking, traveling, thrift shopping, antiquing, and spending time with loved ones.

Working in an animal hospital, she values the interactions she has with colleagues, clients, and animals, contributing to the positive atmosphere at Highland. Choosing Highland was a deliberate decision for her, driven by her desire to make a difference in the lives of animals and their owners during difficult times. At home, she is accompanied by her mischievous cat, Spot, her stubborn bulldog, Besse, and her sweet bulldog/beagle mix, Ollie.

Jen Bauer
Audrey, CSR

Audrey, a graduate of LCCC with a degree in Health Information Technology in 2020, embarked on her professional journey in the field of veterinary medicine shortly thereafter. Over the past four years, she has dedicated herself to serving as a veterinary receptionist, finding fulfillment in the opportunity to assist families and their beloved pets through challenging times. Drawn to the dynamic environment of an animal hospital, Audrey revels in the daily interaction with a variety of fascinating animals. Outside of work, she indulges in her passion for reading and baking, eagerly anticipating the chance to share her creations with her new colleagues at Highland Animal Hospital. As a proud pet parent to two senior cats, Raven and Poe, and a mixed-breed dog named Ghost, Audrey’s household is filled with love and laughter, especially when Ghost insists on carrying his cherished toy carrot wherever he goes.

Hospital Support Staff

Bonnie Unangst
Bonnie, Practice Manager

Bonnie is a seasoned leader with over 25 years of experience in leadership and program administration. Transitioning from human and social services, she now thrives in the veterinary field, where she enjoys nurturing employees to achieve personal and professional growth. She is passionate about the human-animal bond. She finds fulfillment in working with compassionate individuals who understand its power and depth.

Highland captured her heart with its unwavering commitment to clients and community, a principle upheld since its inception 37 years ago. Beyond work, she indulges in her love for Curly-Coated Retrievers, dedicating time to training and competing in conformation and performance events with her Curlies.

Brooke Simock
Brooke, Assistant Practice Manager

Brooke’s journey into animal care was shaped by a diverse educational background. With an associate degree in Physical Therapist Assistance from Penn State, she dedicated six years to the field before pursuing an associate degree in Business Management. During her academic pursuits, she found fulfillment in roles at an animal shelter and the Animal Therapy Center, fostering her passion for animal welfare.

Outside of work, she immerses herself in nature, indulging in hiking, kayaking, and beach outings. At work, she enjoys the daily variety and challenges, along with the joy of encountering the unique personalities of dogs and cats. Choosing Highland was an intuitive decision drawn by its supportive team dynamic and opportunities for professional growth. At home, CeCe, the sassy terrier mix from St. Maarten, adds flair to her adventures, reveling in beach days, swimming, hiking, and kayaking.

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Sue

Bio Coming Soon