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Maddie's Candid Conversations

Join us for revealing conversations with influential animal welfare leaders, hosted by Maddie's Fund executive leader, Mary Ippoliti-Smith. You'll be inspired by each speaker’s pathway to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in their daily work with animals and the shelter staff who support homeless pets. When we respect and appreciate the journeys our community members have taken, we are reminded of the importance of keeping pets and people together.


Maddie's Candid Conversation with José Ocaño
From a very early age, José Ocaño learned to care for animals thanks to his mom who instilled a love of living things and helping people. Growing up in Barrio Anita gave José the grit, tenacity and life skills he would later need to work in some of the most challenging ecosystems. But just like the people from his community, José's resilience and heart carry him forward. Nothing shows that more than his success as Senior Director of People and Culture with Best Friends Animal Society.
27:52 09/28/2022
Maddies Candid Conversation with Elijah Brice Middleton
In our Season 2 premiere, Elijah Brice-Middleton, Director at Plainfield Area Humane Society (PAHS) in New Jersey, reveals the values and skills he uses to face challenges of being, in his words, "a brown face in a white world."  Maddie's Fund Executive Leadership Team member Mary Ippoliti-Smith hosts the conversation and Q+A.Growing up in a household that cared for a menagerie of dogs, cats, snakes, monkeys, tarantulas and a bird named Diablo, Elijah learned early on to love all living creatures. That passion drove him to undergraduate degrees in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology. On his way to a PhD in ecology, he realized something was missing. After a stint in the financial technologies sector on Wall Street, a happy, accidental interview led him into the field of animal well-being - and straight into the kennels of Animal Care Centers of New York. Now, as a leader at PAHS, he advocates cultivating the talents of his team so they have what they need to excel as professionals.  Every animal shelter director - or anyone in a hiring position  - should have a listen!
28:45 08/25/2022
SPECIAL EDITION! Maddie's Candid Conversation with Gabrielle Chapman and Justin Marceau
Join us for a special, 45-minute edition of Maddie's Candid Conversation where we will be talking with Justin Marceau, author of Beyond Cages: Animal Law and Criminal Punishment.  The discussion will center around the role of fines and fees, civil penalties, conviction and punishment in achieving positive outcomes for animals - and how current enforcement models can in fact produce negative consequences for companion animals which can hinder the goal of lifesaving. Gabrielle Chapman, a social justice analyst, will facilitate the conversation about how systemic racism plays a role, and share ways we can more effectively support companion animals and their families.
45:02 06/03/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with Dr. Lila Miller
Dr. Lila Miller  is known as the mother of shelter medicine and throughout her career, she’s forged bold, new paths for veterinarians and especially for women of color.  She’s won many awards and acclamations, not the least of which is our 2021 Avanzino Leadership Award.  Watch the recording of our recent conversation with Dr. Miller where she talks not only about her amazing achievements, but also her unique perspective on the role of diversity, equity and inclusion in animal welfare.
62:42 06/03/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with Akisha Townsend-Eaton
A former legislative attorney for Best Friends Animal Society and for the Humane Society of the United States, Akisha's current work involves supporting groundbreaking advancements for animals through Animal  Legal Defense Fund's litigation, legislative and criminal justice initiatives as well as for members of the public seeking legal assistance for animal-related matters.In this discussion with Maddie's Fund Executive Leadership Team member Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Akisha shares her story from multiple angles. She'll speak of how the work of animal lifesaving and animal protection policy are interwoven and how ultimately all social policy can work together - especially in removing barriers created by systemic bias.
28:21 06/03/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with James Evans and Jennifer Evans
Join us for an open, informal conversation and Q+A with James Evans, founder of Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE), and Jennifer Evans, CARE's Chief Operating Officer.With a mission to amplify BIPOC voices to promote human and animal well-being, the team at CARE acts to create equitable experiences with a multidisciplinary approach focused on addressing unconscious and hidden biases. They are inspired to rethink and rebuild animal welfare in ways that honor and reflect the well-being of all people.In this discussion with Maddie's Fund Executive Leadership Team member Mary Ippoliti-Smith, James and Jennifer relate their personal journeys to their current focus on underserved BIPOC communities throughout the country, and how helping to build and assist human and animal related organizations is core to their own experiences and beliefs.
35:42 06/03/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with Ariel Zhang
As a young immigrant who moved across multiple continents and countries, Ariel watched her parents work hard to start something better for their family. They had no roots or connections in the US, but that made Ariel recognize, in her words, a "world of opportunities." Yet those came at a steep price - one that forged Ariel's determined drive for compassion among humans and animals.  Come away inspired to promote animal welfare by engaging your local community through global language. 
29:54 06/02/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with Dr. Jyothi Robertson
Internationally recognized as a specialist in animal shelter medicine, Dr. Robertson examines societal and race dynamics that influence policy choices that impact access to veterinary care and the overall success of lifesaving efforts.Her most recent passion project has been the development of Journey You Own, a platform for weaving spirituality and awareness through highlighting social injustice, animal welfare, the climate crisis, and education reform.In this discussion with Maddie's Fund Executive Leadership Team member Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Dr. Robertson postulates how different fields (environment, education, etc.) are interwoven, and that relying on an animal-centric focus keeps us from examining some of the systemic, root causes of the issues we face. Her focus on how to bring new conversations to animal welfare that lead to more diversity, inclusion and equity will offer a fresh perspective on how an individual may face multiple types of overlapping discrimination and how that affects our work and success.
29:17 06/02/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with Ed Jamison
Ed's philosophy of helping animals by helping people - and how important it is for leaders to be intentional and inclusive - was once an eye-opener to many in the field of animal welfare. With a history of providing lifesaving care for homeless pets since 1976, Ed’s goal is to impact the most vulnerable shelter animals and that often includes the people who care for them.  Currently CEO of Operation Kindness, a lifesaving non-profit animal shelter in Carrollton, TX, Ed had previously served as the Director of Dallas Animal Services (DAS) where he was tasked with increasing public safety by getting loose animals off the streets, while also increasing positive outcomes once in the shelter. To accomplish that, Ed led a staff of more than 200 employees, maximized the relationships with the rescue community, rebuilt the volunteer base, and instituted new, progressive programming. For him and his team it was all about helping create a community where all people and animals are safe, treated with respect, and have access to the resources needed to thrive.  Learn and be inspired by Ed's journey promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in his daily work.
34:20 05/31/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with Allison Cardona
Join us for an open, informal 30-minute conversation and Q+A with Allison Cardona, Deputy Director of Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control.In this discussion with Maddie's Fund Executive Leadership Team member Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Allison speaks of overcoming her own experiences with systemic bias and what she sees as initial steps we can take to widen diversity, equity and inclusion in our field while strengthening the human-animal bond.
28:19 05/11/2022
Maddie's Candid Conversation with Dr. Michael Blackwell
Join us for an open, informal 60-minute conversation and Q+A with Dr. Michael J. Blackwell, DVM, MPH.  As the Director of the Program for Pet Health Equity, College of Social Work, at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Blackwell’s self-professed mission is to improve access to veterinary care, especially for families with limited means. He also chairs the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition.  In this discussion with Maddie's Fund Executive Leadership Team member Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Dr. Blackwell reflects on growing up in the segregated south and his eye-opening moment when the critical connection between humans and animals became his life calling. Dr. Blackwell made history as the first veterinarian to be appointed chief of staff for the Office of the Surgeon General. His professional accomplishments, which span private practice, public health, and education, exemplify the vital roles of veterinarians in society. His numerous awards and recognitions - among them the U.S. Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal (which is the highest personal honor award) - include Maddie's Fund's' 2020 Avanzino Leadership Award for his outstanding dedication to the human-animal bond.
63:53 05/11/2022