Meet the Specialists

Internal Medicine

Carrie Miller, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM

Dr. Miller received her DVM from Tufts University in 1999. She then completed a rotating internship in medicine and surgery at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Colorado in 2000. In July, 2003, she became board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine after finishing her residency at Wheat Ridge Veterinary Specialists in Colorado. Dr. Miller continued on as staff doctor at Wheat Ridge Veterinary Specialists, and trained for seven years with Dr. Brendan McKiernan, an internationally known respiratory specialist.

Dr. Miller’s special interests include: respiratory physiology, endocrinology and immunology. Dr. Miller has presented research on laryngeal paralysis and infectious tracheobronchitis at the ESCVIM in Ireland (2001) and the ACVIM in Charlotte, NC (2003). Her research has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine and she has contributed to several veterinary book chapters. Dr. Miller is a member of the American Animal Hospital Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Virginia Veterinary Medical Society. Dr. Miller lives in Charlottesville with her husband and two young children. The Miller family also shares their home with Josie, the golden retriever, and Savie, the Bengal cat. Dr. Miller has given up on the concept of spare time and enjoys every moment she gets with her family.

Shannon Ryan, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM

Dr. Shannon Ryan attended Denison University in Granville Ohio where she received her BS in biochemistry in 2003. She then attended The Ohio State University, College of Veterinary Medicine where she received her DVM in 2008. Following veterinary school, Dr. Ryan began a rotating small animal internship at Hope Advanced Veterinary Center in Vienna, Virginia. During her internship, she developed a strong interest in Internal Medicine and stayed on to complete a year-long internship with the Internal Medicine department. Dr. Ryan then completed a three year residency in Internal Medicine also at The Hope Center. During her residency she conducted research on the effects of low dose of dopamine on morbidity on dogs with pancreatitis and performed a retrospective review on chronic vomiting in cats etiology and diagnostic testing. In February of 2015, Dr. Ryan became board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Dr. Ryan has a particular interest in endocrinology, gastrointestinal and immune-mediated diseases.

Dr. Ryan moved to Charlottesville, Virginia and joined Virginia Veterinary Specialists in December of 2015. She and her husband have a dog Tessa.

Michelle Purnell, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM

Dr. Michelle Purnell is an air force brat born in upstate New York. She grew up in Louisiana and pursued undergraduate studies at Louisiana State University. She then graduated from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1998 and remains a rabid LSU Tigers fan to this day. She completed a rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship in Chicago, IL, where she was voted Intern of the Year. She then pursued a residency in small animal internal medicine at Oklahoma State University and was awarded the Phi Zeta Honor Society research award. Upon finishing her residency, she joined a busy multi-specialty referral practice in North Carolina where she was a staff small animal internist for 16 years. The last 3 years she served as the medical director. Dr. Purnell is board certified in small animal internal medicine.

Dr. Purnell has special interest in the areas of endocrinology and gastroenterology. She has participated in clinical trials evaluating different types of insulin therapy for canine and feline diabetes mellitus. She has lectured regionally on various topics including diabetes mellitus, pancreatitis, heart disease, and endocrine emergencies.

In her free time, Dr. Purnell enjoys going to the lake, wake surfing, walking, cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband, son, and their dog, Chloe.


Kevin Stiffler, DVM, Diplomate ACVS

Dr. Kevin Stiffler is a Virginia native, having grown up in Williamsburg. He received both his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees from North Carolina State University. Dr. Stiffler then went on to complete a general rotating internship at the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Veterinary Medicine. Following his general internship, Dr. Stiffler completed a surgical internship at the Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center in Texas and then returned to the University of Georgia to complete a three year residency in small animal surgery. In 2004, Dr. Stiffler was honored as UGA’s resident of the year. That year he also received the national resident clinical presentation of the year award from the American College of Veterinary Surgeons for his research on urinary tract infections following spinal surgery.

Dr. Stiffler has been practicing in Richmond, Virginia since 2004 and he became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2005. Dr. Stiffler is married to Dr. Katie Stiffler (a graduate of UVA and UGA) who is a small animal veterinarian. The Dr.’s Stiffler are the proud and busy parents of twins and have a lab named Georgia.

Dr. Stiffler has a special interest in minimally invasive surgery including arthroscopy and laparoscopy. He also has a strong interest in surgical correction of cranial cruciate ligament instability and fracture repair. Having always wanted to live in Charlottesville he happily joined VVS in 2011.

Sara Schillinger, DVM, Diplomate ACVS

Dr. Sara Schillinger grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Union College, then completed a master’s degree at Stony Brook University. She received her veterinary degree from Cornell University in 2005. She then completed a rotating internship at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital and her small animal surgical residency at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. She completed her board certification in small animal surgery in 2010. Dr. Schillinger then became an associate surgeon at practices in Austin, TX and Charlotte, NC prior to moving to Charlottesville to join Virginia Veterinary Specialists.

Dr. Schillinger has broad interest in all types of surgery with particular interests in surgical oncology, wound repair and reconstruction, fracture repair and cranial cruciate ligament disease.

She and her husband live in Charlottesville with their daughter, a dog, Auggie, and two cats, Simon and Ziggy. In her spare time, Dr. Schillinger competes in triathlons and enjoys travelling and spending time outdoors with her family.


Anna Paling, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology)

Dr. Anna Paling was born in England, and raised in Maryland and Virginia. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology with Honors from the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Va.

Dr. Paling then moved out to Southern California and taught high school for one year. After that time, she attended veterinary school at the University of California, Davis; School of Veterinary Medicine, in Davis, California. Dr. Paling completed her DVM from UC Davis and then went on to complete a private practice internship in small animal internal medicine and surgery in Sacramento, CA. She then returned to UC Davis to go through the cardiology residency program at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. During her residency, Dr. Paling received several awards for excellent performance, including winning the residence research project award in 2008 for her clinical research in the congenital heart disease: subaortic stenosis (SAS). Dr. Paling completed her residency and became a board certified cardiologist in 2008.

From 2008 to 2010, Dr. Paling worked in a private veterinary specialty practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, as their first cardiologist. In 2010, Dr. Paling relocated to North Carolina, where she practiced for 1 ½ years. She then returned to Charlottesville, Virginia, to join Virginia Veterinary Specialists as the areas first veterinary cardiologist.

Dr. Paling’s special academic interests include congenital heart disease in dogs and cats, interventional cardiology, and diagnosis and management of complex arrhythmias. She and her husband have three young children and a cat named Nigel.


Elizabeth Toops, DVM, Diplomate ACVD (Dermatology)

Dr. Elizabeth Toops was born in Ohio. She attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana where she obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology with Highest Distinction. She then attended veterinary school at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. Following veterinary school, she completed a small animal rotating internship in Internal Medicine and Surgery at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Charlotte, North Carolina. She then went to Auburn, Alabama to complete a residency in dermatology and a master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. While there, she gave numerous lectures and wrote articles pertaining to different dermatology topics. She also won the ACVD Resident’s Research Award in Basic Science.

From 2009 to 2013, Dr. Toops worked at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, a private veterinary specialty practice. She became board certified in veterinary dermatology in 2010. Recently her family moved to Charlottesville and she is joining Virginia Veterinary Specialists creating VVS’ dermatology service.

Dr. Toops is married to a veterinarian boarded in laboratory animal medicine. They have a baby girl and her family also has a dog and a cat. Her special academic interests include canine and feline parasitic skin diseases as well as atopic skin disease. Her extracurricular interests include running and reading.

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