Douglas Spiker, DVM
Co-Founder & President
Dr. Doug Spiker is a co-founder and President of Essentials PetCare. Our team knows him as our Intrepid Mastermind – the creator of our movement to expand veterinary care. Dr. Spiker is a small animal veterinarian, who realized the significant need for making basic pet care both affordable and accessible to all families after practicing for several years as a co-owner of a walk-in veterinary hospital.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he moved at a young age and grew up in New Port Richey, Florida. Dr. Spiker earned his doctorate from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Florida State University. He describes one of his greatest joys as “watching the organization grow from a concept into a mission-oriented company full of talented individuals.”
- Favorite book? In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette. I found this book equal parts humbling and inspiring.
- Hobbies? Swimming, watching The Simpsons episodes on endless repeat, finding ways to insert my favorite Simpsons quotes into my everyday life.
- Personal motto? “Bite off more than you can chew and then chew like hell.” – Peter Brock
Christine Battista, MS
Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer
Christine Battista is a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Essentials PetCare, a.k.a. The Maestro. Her professional experience includes marketing, merchandising and product development; working with small organizations, non-profits, and national retailers as well.
Christine comes from an entrepreneurial family, and was born and raised in Port Richey, Florida. She earned her master’s degree in Consumer Affairs from Auburn University, and double-majored in Merchandising and Apparel Design, earning her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. She takes pride in ensuring our team’s efforts always remain true to our mission–serving as an advocate on behalf of pet parents, and encouraging consumer transparency and education to enhance the lives of people and their beloved pets.
- Best concert ever attended? Madonna: Rebel Heart tour – Brooklyn, NY
- Skills or talents that most people don’t know about? Ballroom dancing, sewing and patternmaking
- Personal motto? “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau
Co-Founder & Executive Chairman
Bruce Newman is a co-founder of Essentials PetCare and serves as our Executive Chairman, i.e. the Navigator. Bruce’s background includes 30 years of entrepreneur experience in developing and financing businesses in the area of B2B software, technology solutions for big box retailers, and investment banking.
Bruce grew up with his six brothers and sisters on Long Island in New York where he started his first business at the age of 21. Bruce enjoys working with determined people who have a shared vision of building an organization that can have meaningful impact.
- If you were a superhero, which one would you be? Batman of course, beginning from when I was 7.
- Skills or talents that most people don’t know about? I’m pretty good at riding a unicycle, although it’s been a few years. Good to have in my back pocket if I ever decide to join the circus!
- Personal motto? Always do the right thing.
Travis W. Wagner, DVM, DABVP
Dr. Wagner is the Regional Clinical Director for Essentials PetCare. As a classmate of Dr. Spiker, Dr. Wagner graduated from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2005. Originally from Birmingham, AL, he started his small animal medicine career in Alpharetta, GA, for two years before moving back to his wife’s hometown of Gadsden, AL. He spent several years in emergency/critical care practice at a surgical referral hospital and also helped establish a practice limited to internal medicine service for the specialty hospital. He continues to practice full time general medicine and surgery at a small animal hospital in Rainbow City, AL.
In 2017, Dr. Wagner passed board certification with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in the area of canine/feline practice. This is an organization that certifies general practitioners as practicing on the standard of a specialist through a rigorous review of credentials, writing of detailed case reports and literature reviews, and a two-day board exam. Dr. Wagner joined Essentials PetCare in 2018 and initially began assisting with development of our medical protocols to ensure they were the highest standards possible and in accordance with published guidelines by the American Animal Hospital Association, American Association of Feline Practitioners, and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. He now serves as a Medical Director to oversee the implementation of these protocols and ensure that our patients receive the highest quality of care.
Dr. Wagner entered veterinary medicine because of a love for animals, but he has come to realize that the field is often more about helping people. He is excited to have the opportunity with Essentials PetCare to bring affordable care to more pets and pet owners so that more people can improve their quality of life through the human-animal bond. When he’s not working, Dr. Wagner enjoys spending time with his family (wife Stephanie, daughter Natalie, and son Reade), running, traveling, and playing drums.
- What’s the best thing about working at EPC? “Strengthening the human-animal bond by proactively keeping pets healthy and educating owners about basic pet healthcare.”
- Favorite way to spend a day off? “My typical day off is a morning jog, lunch date with my wife, then playing with the kids after school.”
- Best concert ever attended? “Any of the 13 Poison shows I’ve been to, although KISS and Iron Maiden have to rank at the top as well!”
Stephen Godwin, JD, MA
Director of Partner Operations
Steve Godwin is our Director of Talent Operations, or as we refer to him behind his back, “Ditto.” Steve has over twenty years of human resources experience and service as counsel to senior management. Prior to joining Essentials PetCare, he called Tallahassee home, serving as legal counsel to several Florida executive branch agencies and most recently as Director of House Administration for the Florida House of Representatives.
He received a Juris Doctor degree, a master’s degree in Public Administration, and a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs & Political Science from Florida State University. Steve says he enjoys working for a company like Essentials PetCare that “offers a team management approach to performance and productivity, which provides a fun, exciting, and challenging work environment, and for which my contribution is meaningful to me, my employer and the public.”
- If you were a superhero, which one would you be? Run Away From Danger Man
- Personal motto? “Quondo Omni Flunkus Moritati”
- If you could travel to one place, where would it be? 19.3947 N, 154.9291 W.
Partner Relations Manager
Debby is our Talent Support Manager, guiding our organizations’ efforts to discover and support the most talented team members to help fulfil our mission. She grew up in New York on Long Island, the eldest of 7 children, which helped initiate her organizational and “people” skills.
After moving to Florida and many years of owning and operating family businesses including restaurants, bars, and a hotel, she entered the field of Healthcare Provider Credentialing, working for nearly 2 decades in this industry. Debby is passionate about the EPC model and “being on the ground floor of an innovative and much needed new concept on a national level, to see it all take place and watch the growth!”
- Best concert ever attended? “Rolling Stones”
- If you could travel to one place, where would it be? “To Italy again!”
- Personal motto? “Try to learn something new every day.”
Catherine was born and raised in Florida. She graduated from the University of North Florida, earning a dual bachelor’s degree in International Studies and History with a minor in French. Prior to joining the Essentials PetCare team, Catherine worked as an Economic Self Sufficiency Supervisor for several years for the state of Florida, assisting new hires to successfully onboard.
She is passionate about employee engagement and assisting others to ensure the team succeeds. Catherine is excited to take on these tasks and new challenges with the Essentials PetCare team.
- Hobbies? “I absolutely love reading, writing, baking, camping, and embroidery.”
- If you could travel to one place, where would it be? “I would have to say Japan.”
- What would be your personal motto? “It’s just a moment in time, in a few months or years you’ll look back at this moment and either laugh or see what you were able to overcome.”
Jenny Costas, DVM
Dr. Jenny Costas wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as she can remember, and she fulfilled this dream when she graduated from the University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine in 1998. Although she loves all her patients, she is truly a cat person at heart.
Dr. Costas has volunteered several times for Habitat for Humanity and spent 5 years working with the Sea Turtle Relocation Project in Broward County. In her free time, she enjoys reading, attending art festivals, yoga, and spending time with family.
Rose Lugo, Ed.D.
Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships
A consummate marketer specialized in the pet industry, Rose boasts 20 years of experience in media. She has combined her storytelling and anpalytical marketing skills to help leading pet brands like The Dog Whisperer, Purina, Heartgard, Frontline, and Vetericyn build emotional connections with pet families.
Rose earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at renowned Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil; conducted graduate studies in television and film at California State University of Los Angeles; and holds a doctoral degree in education, with specialization in media literacy, from Loyola Marymount pUniversity in Los Angeles, California. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Rose is passionate about Essentials PetCare’s mission and constantly thinks of ways to share it pet parents. When she is not busy with pet marketing, Rose enjoys spending time with her husband Tony and their beloved pack—Minimmas, Maximmus II, Mel, Mo, and Marvin.
- Best concert ever? Shakira’s El Dorado World Tour in Miami.
- Hobbies? Recently started teaching myself to play the piano. Yes, there’s an app for that.
- Personal motto? Go big or go home.
Marketing & Communications Manager
Marie Umholtz is our Marketing & Communications Manager, a.k.a. the Media Whisperer. She has a background in professional writing and digital media.
She grew up in Florida and received a bachelor’s degree in English with minors in art and multimedia management at Saint Leo University. She has a passion for helping people discover the best opportunities in pet care and educating clients, so they can make the best decisions for their pets.
- Hobbies? I love art—both studying and creating it—in my spare time. I especially love drawing, painting, and sculpting.
- Skills or talents that most people don’t know about? I was able to ace a biology lab practical once thanks to watching SpongeBob.
- If you could travel to one place, where would it be? If it’s a real place, I’d love to visit Italy. If it could be anywhere, I’m going to Narnia.
Quality Care Supervisor
Katie joined Essentials PetCare as a veterinary technician. Her strong work ethic and can-do attitude led her to lead our Client Engagement Team as our Quality Care Supervisor. A Texas native, Katie attended the Veterinary Technician Program at the Cedar Valley Community College, where she earned her associate’s degree in veterinary technology. She always wanted to work with tigers, but luckily to us, she chose kitties over big cats. “I fell in love with helping pet owners and educating the clients on pet care,” explained Katie. Her love of animals culminated in a big family with a long list of pets: 6 dogs, 4 cats, a Sulcata tortoise, and a Bearded Dragon.
- Cats or dogs? Cats, preferably exotic felines, like tigers, lions, and leopards.
- Hobbies? Working on wood projects, small wood crafts, building projects for my exotic pets, for example, a new terrarium or outside housing for my tortoise and bearded dragon.
- If you could travel to one place, where would it be? I would love to take a European vacation that would take me to multiple countries.
Construction Project Manager
Jason Samough is our Construction Project Manager. He has a bachelor’s degree in architecture, a master’s degree in construction management, and has worked for a variety of public and private sector clients in Miami and San Francisco for nearly two decades. Jason’s passion for building design, construction techniques and their effect on the operations of a business always encourages him to find the best balance of cost, functionality and appeal to fit the particular needs of a facility. Jason particularly enjoys being a part of a unique company like Essentials PetCare because it allows him to employ ideas from his other areas of interest, such as business, law and technology. When not attending to the needs of Essentials PetCare, Jason spends time trying out local restaurants, hiking on trails and running with his wife and their adopted Foxhound, Coco.
- Hobbies? “I still ‘build’ with Legos, but this is really research for work!”
- Words to live by? “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”
- “I think ‘fusion’ food is like fusion language; it doesn’t make any sense; and I don’t understand it.”