Meet the Team
Dr. Rizzo was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, but has fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest. She loved animals from a very young age and used to beg her mother for a pet – any pet. When she was 12 her mother gave in and bought her two newts. Sadly, this did not work out well. It wasn’t until she was 17 when her mother agreed to let her take home a grey tabby kitten who she named Simba.
Simba stood by Dr. Rizzo’s side while she finished high school and attended undergraduate school. He especially liked lying on her textbooks while she was taking notes. When Dr. Rizzo’s soon-to-be husband, Jim, convinced her that she needed to go to veterinary school, Simba and their new addition, an orange tabby named Presley, followed them to Southern California where she attended and graduated from Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine.
While she was in veterinary school, Dr. Rizzo became fascinated by cancer. Several members of her human and animal family had suffered from cancer – some survived and some did not. Sadly, one of those family members was Simba who, at the age of 13, passed away due to metastatic pancreatic cancer.
So while she knew of cancer her whole life, she had no idea, until veterinary school, that cancer is an umbrella term for a spectrum of diseases. Although they are all united by the commonality of cellular proliferation, they are also each characterized by unique behaviors, progressions, and responses. She was hooked instantly and, in her first quarter, she decided she was going to be an oncologist.
Four years later, Dr. Rizzo, Jim, Presley, and their two canine additions, Molly and Teddy, traveled to Tinton Falls, New Jersey so that Dr. Rizzo could complete a 1-year rotating internship in veterinary internal medicine and surgery at Garden State Veterinary Specialists. It was there that she developed a deep love and respect for the veterinary support team. Veterinary technicians and assistants work tirelessly and selflessly to care for animals, animal caregivers, AND the veterinarian. For Dr. Rizzo, they taught countless lessons. For example, they taught her how to read an ECG (thank you Kristieeee!), how to stay calm when a patient is actively suffering from seizures and the neurologist hasn’t arrived yet (you rock Meghan!), and they offered a tremendous amount of emotional support on long overnight shifts that threatened to never end (I’m talking to you Shannon!).
Veterinary technicians and assistants are the beating heart of any veterinary clinic and it is impossible to thank them too often for their devotion, technical skill, compassion, and all-around support. The best veterinarians are only that with the support of the whole team and Dr. Rizzo is no exception.
Then it was on to Ithaca, NY where Dr. Rizzo completed a 3-year residency program in medical oncology at Cornell University and where she acquired, Digger the beagle.
As you can imagine, it was at Cornell where Dr. Rizzo started to learn about the complexities of cancer. She conducted both bench side and bedside research and eventually used that research to complete three peer-reviewed articles. Maybe equally as important though, she learned the critical nature of teamwork.
Since then she has been working as a board-certified veterinary medical oncologist in the Pacific Northwest where she has been honing her skills and knowledge and where she has truly come to understand the strength of the human-animal bond.
It is here that she also saw a need for more personalized and accessible medicine. The Pacific Northwest is vast. Distance alone can be a barrier for many to seeking out or continuing cancer care for their four-legged loved ones. That’s why she started Hope Veterinary Oncology Services – we are thrilled to be bringing veterinary cancer care closer to your home!
Dr. Rizzo and Jim have since lost Molly to nasal cancer and Presley to renal failure. Simba, Molly, and Presley will forever hold a place in their hearts. They still are honored to have Teddy and Digger as part of their family and have added a Shih-Tzu named Henry, a dachshund named Ella, and a bunny named Guinevere.
Dr. Rizzo is honored and grateful to be serving the unique needs of pets with cancer, their families, and all veterinary health care workers in the beautiful South Puget Sound Area.
Sarah started off in the veterinary field with the goal to work as Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner which she did for over a decade before “retiring” and moving on to other fields. She became interested in oncology a few years ago after she had a previous pet diagnosed with lymphoma who underwent treatment. She is excited to assist bringing similar services to others’ pets closer to their homes with the help of the Hope Mobile. When she is not helping care for our patients, she can usually be found on the trails, sometimes with her dog Kaia, sometimes with her husband Bob.
Caitlin grew up in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada where she completed her Associated Degree in Veterinary Technician with Honors. She has been a Licensed Veterinary Technician since 2009 with the Province of Ontario, the State of California and now in the State of Washington where she has resided for the past 2 years. The oncology specialty was first introduced to Caitlin in 2012, making it a special part of her life ever since. She used the knowledge she learned from emergency and internal medicine specialties to help realize the need for compassion and understanding in the veterinary medical field, especially when it comes to helping families process a difficult diagnosis of cancer and the education that goes with that. Helping families through a tough diagnosis, discussing treatment plans and how we can make a very special member of their family more comfortable for as long as possible are just some aspects of the job that Caitlin is passionate about.
Caitlin is married to her incredible wife and they have 3 dogs of their own; Dallas, Cali and Mango Salsa. She enjoys running, hiking and exploring local breweries, wineries and cideries.