Neurology Faculty Veterinarians
Joan R. Coates, DVM, MS, DACVM–Neurology
Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery
Director of the Comparative Neurology Program
Board-certified Specialist in Neurology
Joan Coates specializes in neurology and neurosurgery and is Section Head of the Neurology & Neurosurgery Section/Service.
As a researcher, Coates is a member of the Comparative Neurology Program, which explores inherited developmental and degenerative diseases of the nervous system, and is involved with translational research for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Her research focus involves the study of canine degenerative myelopathy as a disease model for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease).
In addition, Coates co-directs the Neurology & Neurosurgery Service, and is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Coates received a bachelor’s degree and a doctor of veterinary medicine from the University of Missouri. She completed a small animal rotating internship at Texas A&M University and a three-year residency in neurology and neurosurgery at Auburn University. She also received a master of science degree in neuroscience from Auburn University.
When she’s not working, Coates enjoys spending time with her family and their four dogs, one cat, two miniature Sicilian donkeys and two quarter horses. Her hobbies include long-distance cycling, hiking and trekking and playing flute.
Ji-Hey Lim, DVM, PhD
Clinical Instructor, Neurology and Neurosurgery
Ji-Hey Lim specializes in neurology and neurosurgery with a special interest in traumatic spinal cord injury and translational medicine.
Lim received a doctor of veterinary medicine from Seoul National University, College of Veterinary Medicine in South Korea. Following graduation, she completed a three years of training in orthopedic surgery and earned a PhD at Seoul National University. Her research focused on a spinal cord injury model and treatment using allogenic stem cells in dogs. To expand bench-top work to the clinical side, Lim joined a spinal cord injury program at North Carolina State University. There she conducted extensive research to improve the treatment of spinal cord injuries in dogs through the development of novel therapeutics, evaluation tools and biomarkers for the prediction of outcomes. Lim left North Carolina and went on to complete a residency in neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Florida.
When she is not working, she enjoys outdoor activities including hiking, swimming, snowboarding and golf. She also loves to watch movies and spend time with her husband.
Dennis O’Brien, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM
Adjunct Professor Emeritus
Chancellor’s Chair of Excellence in Comparative Neurology
Board-Certified Specialist in Neurology
Dennis O’Brien specializes in medical neurology with a special interest in hereditary diseases, movement disorders and epilepsy.
O’Brien received his doctor of veterinary medicine from the University of Illinois. After three years in general practice, he returned to the University of Illinois to complete a residency in neurology and a PhD in neuroscience.
A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, O’Brien received the organization’s Kirk Award for Professional Excellence in 2011.
When he’s not working, O’Brien enjoys hiking, cycling, prairie restoration, and photography. His family shares their home with two cats, three draft horses, and two dogs with cerebellar ataxia and one with diabetes.
Elizabeth Curtis, DVM
Elizabeth Curtis is a veterinary neurology and neurosurgery resident who works with patients with neurological diseases under the supervision of board-certified neurologists and participates in research.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Curtis received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan while playing division I field hockey. She received her DVM from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She completed a small animal medicine & surgery rotating internship at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
When she’s not working, she enjoys all sports, running, exploring new restaurants, and spending time with her husband, family, and two small dogs Rex and Ducky.
John Gagnepain, DVM
John Gagnepain is a veterinary neurology and neurosurgery resident who works with patients with neurological diseases under the supervision of board-certified neurologists and participates in research.
Gagnepain received a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University in South Carolina. He received his DVM from the University of Georgia and remained in Athens, Georgia, in a general practice for one year. He then completed specialty internships in emergency and critical care at the University of Florida and in neurology at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of San Diego.
When he is not working, he enjoys rock climbing, cooking and hiking.
Natalie Villani, MS, DVM
Natalie Villani is a veterinary neurology and neurosurgery resident who works with patients with neurological diseases under the supervision of board-certified neurologists. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Veterinary Pathobiology, researching canine inherited diseases.
She is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and received bachelor’s degrees from Youngstown State University (Ohio) and the University of Central Florida. She went on to complete a MS and DVM, both from the University of California at Davis. She then pursued a rotating internship in small animal medicine/surgery in New York and a neurology and neurosurgery specialty internship in Los Angeles.
When she is not working, she enjoys playing and refereeing ice hockey, playing video games, hiking, and training her Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Hachi, in a variety of dog performance sports such as agility, rally, and barn hunt.
Lesley Beck, RVT, BS
Lesley Beck is a Veterinary Technician in neurology/neurosurgery. She received her bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medical Technology from Mississippi State University in 2018. When she is not working, she enjoys kayaking, gardening, and spending time with her Greyhound, Power. She is also taking classes to become proficient in American Sign Language.
Stephanie Gilliam, RVT, VTS-Neurology, BS, CCRP
Stephanie Gilliam is a senior veterinary technician in neurology/neurosurgery and small animal physical rehabilitation. She also serves as an adjunct clinical instructor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery.
She received an associate’s degree in veterinary technology from Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri, and canine rehabilitation therapy certification from the University of Tennessee. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology from St. Petersburg College in Florida, Gilliam became a veterinary technician specialist in neurology.
She is pursuing a master of biomedical science degree with an emphasis in veterinary medicine and surgery through the MU CVM’s online master’s program.
Gilliam has presented at national meetings for veterinary practitioners and technicians, and received first-place honors in case presentations at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine forum in 2009. She was named a Service Champion by the MU Staff Advisory Council in 2014.
When she is not working, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and being outdoors with her family on their farm.