VSDC Speakers Bureau

If you’re organizing an event and are looking for a speaker to discuss the benefits of vegetarianism or a plant-based diet, consider the Vegetarian Society of DC Speakers’ Bureau.

The following individuals comprise the VSDC speakers’ bureau. They were selected to participate because of their specialized knowledge and training on vegetarianism’s health, ethical, ecological, and/or spiritual benefits. This is not a complete list, and we hope to add more names in the near future.

To arrange for a speaker at your event, please contact Caroline Cherry at volunteer@vsdc.org.

Note: If someone from this list agrees to speak at your event, it is the policy of the Vegetarian Society of DC that all food/drinks served be vegan so that all may enjoy.

Mark Rifkin, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

6711 Park Heights Avenue, Clubhouse #L-3, Baltimore, MD 21215

Mark Rifkin, M.S., R.D., L.D.N, has been a vegetarian since 1984, and has a master of science in health education. He has been conducting presentations on nutrition and food-related topics since 1997. Mr. Rifkin is interested in applying the benefits of vegetarian diets to preventing and treating chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, arthritis, adverse menopausal symptoms, and depression. He also specializes in helping vegetarians further improve their eating habits.

Milton R. Mills, M.D.


Milton R. Mills, M.D., is associate director of preventive medicine for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a DC-based nonprofit organization of doctors and laypeople dedicated to promoting better nutrition and higher research standards.

Dr. Mills practices outpatient clinic-based medicine in Northern Virginia and works as a critical care physician with Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Va. His varied experience specializing in internal medicine and HIV disease has made him extensively knowledgeable about the unique health care needs of minorities, the challenges of practicing medicine in inner cities, and the special medical and nutritional requirements of people living with HIV+ and AIDS.

As an African-American physician focusing on preventive medicine, Dr. Mills has delved into some of the environmental and societal influences affecting the health of African Americans and other racial minorities. Dr. Mills has lectured and given research seminars across the United States and in Mexico on such topics as the negative impacts of meat and dairy consumption on human health; nutrition and HIV/AIDS; nutrition and cancer; and the dietary needs of various ethnic groups.

Dr. Mills, who graduated in 1991 from Stanford University School of Medicine, began working with AIDS patients while still in medical school. He also served as student body president of the medical school, founded the Minority Students’ Alliance, and worked as editor-in-chief and managing editor of the Stanford Medical School newspaper. He interned at the University of California-San Francisco and performed his residency at Georgetown University Hospital.

Dr. Mills’ papers on race and diet have appeared in the Journal of the National Medical Association and 10 years ago he initiated PCRM’s campaign against racial bias in federal dietary guidelines.

Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., M.S.


Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., M.S., is a research scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a DC-based national organization of physicians and laypersons that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition, and addresses controversies in modern medicine, including ethical issues in research.

As a research scientist, Dr. Balcombe works on issues relating to the use of nonhuman animals in medical science and education. He analyzes and synthesizes published findings and writes and presents papers for publication in scientific and lay journals. Dr. Balcombe also writes the monthly column “Beyond Animal Research” for the PCRM website.

Dr. Balcombe’s books include The Use of Animals in Higher Education: Problems, Alternatives, and Recommendations and Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good, which was published by Macmillan in May 2006. Dr. Balcombe has also written about animals in research for several magazines, including PCRM’s Good Medicine and Alternatives in Veterinary Medical Education. Dr. Balcombe reviews manuscripts for Animal Behaviour, The American Biology Teacher, and the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

Dr. Balcombe has given more than 50 presentations on the use of animals in research and on alternatives to the use of animals in medical research and education. His recent presentations include “Rodents in Laboratories: Thinking Outside the Cage,” at the Sixth Annual Animal Welfare Forum in Canada and a presentation on pleasure in animals at the second InterNICHE conference in Norway.

Dr. Balcombe received his doctorate in ethology from the University of Tennessee. He received his master of science in biology from Carleton University (Canada), and his bachelor’s in biology from York University (Canada).

Dr. Balcombe served as the Research Coordinator for Immersion Medical, a medical simulation company in Maryland. He is a former VSDC vice president.

Dr. Balcombe is available to speak on any or a combination of the following topics: animal pleasure (topic of his book Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good, Macmillan, 2006); animals in education (topic of his book The Use of Animals in Higher Education: Problems, Alternatives, and Recommendations (Humane Society Press, 2000); or animals in research.

Karen E. Davis, Ph.D., President, United Poultry Concerns

PO Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405

karen@upc-online.org; phone: 757-678-7875; fax: 757-678-5070

Dr. Davis is president and founder, in 1990, of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowls. She has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland-College Park, where she taught for 12 years in the English department.

Her articles have appeared in The Faculty Voice (University of Maryland), Journal of English and Germanic Philology, English Language Notes, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, and Between the Species: A Journal of Ethics. Her work, letters-to-the editor and op-eds have run in the New York Times, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, Washingtonian, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Columbus Dispatch, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Harper’s Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Minnesota Monthly, Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Nation, The Sun (Baltimore), Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, the “Dear Abby” syndicated advice column, Egg Industry, Feedstuffs, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Canadian Veterinary Journal, and many other publications.

She has been a guest on many television and radio programs, such as The Howard Stern Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Fact Finders on WB Channel 11 News @ Ten in New York City, and “This American Life” on National Public Radio.

Since 1999, Dr. Davis and UPC have hosted seven conferences on farmed animal advocacy issues. UPC’s 7th annual conference presented the topic of “Inadmissible Comparisons” at the New York University Law School, co-hosted by Lantern Books and the NYU Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, in New York City on 24-25 March 2007.

Dr. Davis has authored several books, including A Home for Henny (a children’s book published by UPC); Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey: A Poultryless “Poultry” Potpourri (a cookbook published by the Book Publishing Co.); Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry (Book Publishing Co.); More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality (Lantern Books); and The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities (Lantern Books). Her essay, “The Turkey in History,” appears in the Encyclopedia of Animals and Humans edited by Marc Bekoff and Janette Nystrom (Greenwood, 2007).

Erica Meier


Erica Meier is the executive director of Compassion Over Killing (COK), a non-profit animal advocacy organization based in Washington DC. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, public outreach, litigation, and other advocacy programs.

COK’s efforts to expose cruelty to farmed animals have garnered national media coverage in various newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today, and on television newscasts as well. Before working at COK, Ms. Meier spent four years as an animal control officer in DC, rescuing sick, injured, and homeless animals as well as enforcing animal protection laws.