Get to know our team
Dr. Brian H. Birthright
Dr. Birthright’s love of the mountains since childhood brought him from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Waynesville, NC. Since graduating from Auburn School of Veterinary Medicine, he wanted to open his hospital and practice a high level of medical care, including internal medicine, surgery, and emergency/critical care.
When not working or spending time with his family, Dr. Birthright can be found riding his bicycle or motorcycle on the scenic roads of Haywood County, on his mountain bike, exploring the trails, or camping.
Dr. Rachelle McKinnon
Dr. McKinnon started working at Maple Tree in 2013. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Meredith College in Raleigh and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. She is a native of Haywood County and is excited to be able to practice in her hometown of Waynesville. Outside of veterinary medicine, she and her husband Fred enjoy time with their three children- Caden, Annaleigh, and 1-year-old Tenleigh, traveling (they especially love visiting NYC), and Dr McKinnon loves flower gardening. She and her family share their home with four pets- two cats (Naomi and Emmett) and two dogs (15-year-old Phoebe and their Goldendoodle, Fenway).
Dr. Katie Justice
Dr. Justice joined our team in September of 2020. Dr. Justice grew up on a ranch with cows, horses, sheep, and many dogs. She completed her undergraduate degree at Clemson University, then moved to St. Kitts for veterinary school at Ross University, then to Oregon State for her clinical year. After finishing clinics, she moved to Colorado for a mixed animal internship before moving to Asheville. She loves anything about the outdoors, especially hiking and going to Clemson football games. Dr. Justice also has a handsome tuxedo kitty named Jasper.
Kate and Dr. Birthright have worked together since designing, building, and finally opening the hospital in July 2005. Kate grew up in the panhandle of Florida and moved to Boone, NC, to attend Appalachian State University.
After graduating, she spent two years in Honduras as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Upon returning to the United States, she chose Asheville as her home. Her work history includes nonprofits in Asheville, a high school Spanish teacher for Haywood County Schools, and as the practice manager at Maple Tree. Since 2019, she has supported the new practice manager and continues other administrative responsibilities remotely. She loves running, camping with her family, and eating!
Parker Austin joined the Maple Tree team in January of 2019. Parker grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and after graduating from Georgia State University, he moved to San Francisco, California. He lived in San Francisco for nearly ten years before the pull of the mountains and family brought him and his wife back to the area. Outside work, you can typically find him in the woods with his pup, Hobbes, or enjoying the day on the golf course.
Emiley Powell joined us in October 2017 while completing her A.A.S. in the Veterinary Medical Technology program at A-B Tech. She grew up here in Waynesville, NC. Emiley has a sweet boxer mix named Annie. Outside work, she enjoys spending time at Lake Chatuge, reading romance novels, binge-watching Netflix, spending time with friends, and walking Lake Junaluska.
Christina Hepner is originally from Athens, Georgia. Her previous job was as a phlebotomy tech at the University of Georgia Teaching Hospital. Christina has ten chickens, four dogs, three cats, two horses, one donkey, and one pig. Outside of caring for her multiple pets, she loves being a mom to her three kids. Christina also enjoys kayaking, hiking, reading, and listening to music.
Julie Smith became part of Maple Tree’s family in 2018. She is originally from Putney, Vermont. She has been working in the veterinary industry for a long time. Julie loves to spend time with friends and family outside of work and attend social events.
Brie Pope became part of Maple Tree’s family in 2016. She is from Candler, NC, and used to work as a computer technician. She has two adorable Chihuahuas named Tito and Penny. Outside work, she loves reading scary books and spending time at the lake.
Bethany has been with Maple Tree since September 2020 as a Client Care Coordinator. She is new to the veterinary industry but eager to learn more! She is working on her Business Administration degree at Haywood Community College. Outside work, she enjoys studying, traveling, enjoying time with friends and family, and walking around Lake Junaluska with her dog, Dublin, a 4-year-old terrier mix.
Alisha has been with Maple Tree since December of 2020. She has been in the veterinary field since 2014. She graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2017 with a Biology and Environmental Studies degree focusing on Conservation Biology. She is currently in the Veterinary Technician Program through Penn Foster, and in her spare time, she likes to hike and spend time with her pets. She has a cat named Eris and a dog named Reilly.
Anna joined the Maple Tree team in July of 2020. She has worked in veterinary medicine on and off for ten years. She went to Appalachian State University for Biology, then to Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for a Masters in Conservation. She loves to run, ski, hike, climb, raft, and just generally loves being outside. Anna has three goofy dogs: a black lab named Fitz and two tree-walking coonhound sisters named Tonks and Nessie.
Spring McKenzie has been with Maple Tree Dog Camp since opening in October 2013. She is an alumnus of WCU with a degree in psychology and biology. Spring lives in Balsam with her partner and her full house of animals. She loves coming home to the zoo at home after leaving the zoo at work. Her home pack consists of Maple, a supermodel Catahoula from the shelter, Legba a Catahoula who was found in the woods; Ramble, a mutt who is at a rescue in Charlotte; Arleene, a cane corso, and Sherpa, a husky rescued from Sarge’s. The cats who live in the mess of dogs are Zoe, Bayou, and Gumbo, the ring leader. When Spring is away from work, she loves to hike, see live music, and travel while always eating good food.
Rick Best has provided professional grooming with the team Maple Tree since 2010. Originally from Canada, Rick moved to the mountains after living on the West Coast. Rick has a sweet retriever mix named Samson. When Rick is not at work, he enjoys hiking, running, and spending time with his grandkids.
Paige McClain has been grooming for Maple Tree since 2014. Originally from Indiana, she moved to go to school at Western Carolina University, where she got her degree in Forensic Anthropology. She is a mom of 5 pups and three cats. She has Oliver, a Papillion; Turbo, the Chihuahua; Jolene, the terrier mix; Sprite, a rescue from a hoarding situation; and Gambit, the Frenchie/Boston terrier. Her cats are Dexter, Theodore, and Kitten. When Paige is not grooming, she loves to spend her time seeing live music and helping out at local rescues.
George just recently came to work for us for the 2nd time. He started his journey in animal care three years ago when he found us and started as a camp counselor. Due to family needs, he moved to Florida and just came back after three years. Before working with dogs, he was in the hospitality business for 20-plus years, working at Biltmore Hotel. After leaving the hotel, he knew he wanted to pursue his love for animals immediately and tried grooming for a couple of years before getting into luxury animal care. When he is not working at Maple Tree, he is spending his time rescuing cats and being a caregiver for his dad.