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.
After graduating from Emerson College in Boston in 1986 with a degree in Writing and Publishing, Karen moved to San Diego where she worked, for several years, in medical office management. Her passion turned to parrots following the purchase of her first parrot in a yard sale. Ricki, a Lilac Crowned Amazon who was wild caught, pinioned and re-homed at least 3 times in 10 years, represented all that was tragic about parrots in the pet trade. It was Karen’s relationship with this Amazon that lead her to Foster Parrots shortly after her return to the east coast. Her office management experience, writing skills and dedication to the welfare of parrots became a valuable asset to the organization as she took her place beside Marc Johnson, helping to build Foster Parrots, one of the country’s foremost advocates for parrot rescue and welfare. She has written for The World Parrot Trust’s Psittascene Magazine and for Rain Forest Magazine, and continues to produce informational and educational literature for Foster Parrots, Ltd.
Board of Directors
Hank Wietsma, DVM, ABVP
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.
Susan Sheridan, MSW
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.
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.
Vivian Wexler, Attorney at Law
Vivian Wexler has been the Assistant Director for J.D. Advising with Harvard Law School since 2006. Prior to joining Harvard, she worked as a corporate associate at the law firm of Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, LLP with a general corporate practice encompassing the areas of securities, mergers & acquisitions and private equity. Later in her career, she retooled her practice to focus on the investment management and financial services spaces and worked in the Boston office of K&L Gates, one of the largest law firms in the world. She is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and is a certified mediator in the province of Quebec. Vivian’s interest in the plight of captive parrots began as a child when her family befriended an unwanted, wild-caught Mexican Red Lored Amazon. She and her husband now provides a home for an adopted “special needs” Congo African Gray parrot and small cockatiel. Vivian provides legal services and counsel to The New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary and Foster Parrots, Ltd.
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. 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.