Board of Directors
Founder / Chief Executive Officer
Raised as a teen in Belgium and educated at the University of London, Marc Johnson was a potter and an art teacher with a studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts when, in the early 1980’s, he answered an ad and bought his first parrot, a blue and gold macaw named Wally. As fate would have it, on the very same day he bought Wally, he rescued his first parrot, “Bill”, an unwanted mitred conure. The relationship he formed with these birds in the early 1980’s lead him down the path he still walks today as the founder and CEO of Foster Parrots, Ltd. Marc’s drive and dedication to parrot protection and avian welfare issues have brought him before audiences across the country to speak on topics including the captive parrot crisis, wild parrot conservation efforts in South America, and controversy surrounding non-native parrot species in the U.S.
Hank Wietsma, DVM, ABVP, since 2008
A member of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and the Association of Avian Veterinarians, Dr. Wietsma’s expertise in avian medicine has earned him national recognition as a leader in his field. He is one of the original founders and the current president of Rhode Island’s Companion Animal Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing low cost or no cost veterinary services for low-income pet guardians in the state. He is a former president of the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association and was voted RIVMA’s Veterinarian of the Year in 2012.
Dr. Wietsma obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from Fairfield University (1978), his Master of Science in Reproductive Immunology from Ohio State University (1981) and his doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from The University of Florida (1985). He earned his ABVP (Avian) certification in 1997 and was recertified in 2007.
Hank has worked with several regional veterinary offices, including Wickford Veterinary Hospital (which he owned), Ocean State Veterinary Services, Inc. in East Greenwich, and Westerly Animal Hospital. In 2014 he and colleague, Dr. Sam Lester, established Coventry Animal Hospital, a full-service, state-of-the-art veterinary facility offering care for cats, dogs, birds and other exotic pets.
With a specialized interest in the plight of captive parrots, Dr. Wietsma joined Foster Parrots as the Lead Sanctuary Vet in 2008. Here he invests his extensive knowledge, his skills and his commitment to avian welfare as he oversees the care of the residents of the New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary.
Gary Block, DVM, MS, DACVIM, since 2015
Block, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is a 1991 graduate of Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation he completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston and a residency in small animal internal medicine at Purdue University. He became board-certified in small animal internal medicine in 1994. In 1997 he received his Masters degree in Animals & Public Policy from Tufts University, with his thesis focused on the teaching of veterinary ethics.
Dr. Block is an active member of and has served as past presidents for both the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association and the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics. In 2011 he was voted Rhode Island Veterinarian of the Year by the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association. He is incoming President of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. He served 8 years in the AVMA House of Delegates and 4 years on the board of the Companion Animal Parasite Council. He is a founding board member of the Rhode Island Companion Animal Foundation and currently serves as Treasurer for this non-profit that provides financial assistance to individuals whose pets are in need of veterinary care.
Dr. Block has spoken at the local and national level on a wide range of animal welfare and veterinary ethics topics and he has numerous scholarly publications in professional journals. He is an active member of American Veterinary Medical Law Association, Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine Society and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Dr. Block is co-owner with his wife Justine, of Ocean State Veterinary Specialists, a 45-doctor emergency and referral veterinary hospital in East Greenwich, RI that opened its doors in 2001.
Doctor Block's "family" includes two children, 3 horses, 2 goats, 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 tortoises, fish and 100,000 honeybees. Although he would love to add some parrots to the menagerie his wife has made it clear that addition of any other pets to our home will result in his being asked to live elsewhere so for now, he will need to get his Psittacine "fix" at Foster Parrots.
Dr. Lucy Spelman, DVM, DACZM, since 2016
Lucy has an undergraduate degree in biology from Brown University and a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine from the University of California at Davis. In 1994, she became the 43rd member of the American College of Zoological Medicine, the first to achieve this milestone right out of residency training. Her work experience includes zoo, wildlife, and small animal medicine; public speaking; writing; teaching; zoo administration—she served as the first female Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo from 2000-2005; and, conservation—she was the Field Manager for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project from 2006-2009. In addition to scientific articles, she is the author of the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia and The Rhino with Glue-on Shoes.
As the founder of an exciting new non-profit organization, “Creature Conserve”, Lucy has been exploring the interface between art, science, and one-health medicine since returning from Rwanda in 2009 after three years working with mountain gorillas. As a zoo and wildlife veterinarian, she has treated a variety of other endangered species, including giant otters, giant pandas, and Asian elephants. Creature Conserve is an outreach organization dedicated to bringing artists and scientists together to foster sustained support for animal conservation.
She is currently based in RI where she teaches biology at the Rhode Island School of Design (since 2010); she also practices at Ocean State Veterinary Specialists.
James P. Hahn, O.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Hahn is currently a full time staff Optometrist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a large multi-disciplinary medical practice with multiple locations in the greater Boston area. Dr. Hahn provides full scope medical optometry, specializing in custom therapeutic contact lenses for patients with a myriad of different corneal diseases. James graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA with a degree in Experimental Psychology. He received a Ph.D. from Brown University where he studied experimental psychology and color vision science. James received his second doctorate, this one in Optometry, from the New England College of Optometry.
Born in New Jersey and raised in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania James had a deep love and empathy for animals, but chronic allergies precluded him from having mammalian pets. He was able to keep goldfish, however, and he cared for them diligently - so much so that one lived for almost 20 years! In January of 2001 James and his husband, Stephen Coady, purchased their first bird, a parrotlet named Niblet, from a local breeder. This tiny, dynamic little ball of joy and energy changed their lives forever. Niblet taught James and Stephen about the true meaning of loving a parrot… and also about the devastation and heartbreak of losing one. Niblet was only 5 years old when he suddenly passed away.
It was their love for Niblet that drove James and Stephen’s quest for information – and brought them to Foster Parrots. It was their pain over losing Niblet that jumpstarted their education about the transgressions of the breeding industry and the challenges faced by parrots in the pet trade. James and Stephen have been avid Foster Parrots volunteers, activists and advocates for over a decade. Through the years they have adopted and loved 10 birds from Foster Parrots, including the beloved ChiChi, a male eclectus loved and celebrated nationwide, and more recently, Lady Walter who passed away on September 13, 2014, breaking the hearts of countless fans and followers across the country whose lives were so deeply touched by her insurmountable spirit.
Susan Sheridan, MSW, since 2007
A dedicated psychotherapist in practice with humans, Susan Sheridan’s spiritual journey on behalf of captive parrots began over 20 years ago with one very special cockatoo named Jules, who captured her heart and soul, and gradually brought her to understand how challenging it was for him, every day, to repress his wild nature and conform to life as “a pet” – even though he was treated like “a prince”. Susan’s search for a better life for Jules led her to Foster Parrots many years ago and inspired her quest to ensure that other wild spirits like Jules would have a place to go. Her dedication to the future for difficult cases like Jules has resulted in the establishment of the New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary.
Susan has been an animal enthusiast and advocate “forever”, and for over ten years has been involved with the Wildlife Conservation Society as well as with Foster Parrots, supporting programs as close as the Bronx, New York and as far as Gabon, Africa.
Roy Dubs, since 2007
Mr. Dubs has devoted himself to helping people and animals over the last decade. Mr. Dubs has personally provided rescue services to a variety of animals over the years including horses, parrots, geese, peacocks and several varieties of exotic and endangered turtles. He became familiar with the work of Foster Parrots in 2005 during a collaboration to help Quaker parrots under siege in Connecticut. He subsequently extended the use of his land for the establishment of the New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary.