Phone: (757) 473-8560
Fax: (757) 473-1568
4608 Pembroke Blvd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23455

Mon - Fri: 8am - 5pm
Sat: 9am - 1pm


Our Team

The team at Independence Veterinary Hospital is comprised of highly trained and experienced animal health professionals who have a genuine love for working with pets. Our staff treats every patient with the highest quality of medical care as well as a gentle touch.

Dr. Derrick Kier

Dr. Karen Smithwick

“I have lived with animals my entire life; I owned my horse for 21 years, my childhood dog for 15 years, and my beloved cat for 20 years. I hang on tight. The pleasure of rehoming a foster pet, or rehabilitating injured animals warms my heart. My dad had a soft spot for cats, so there was always one in the house. My grandparents would feed strays at thier farmette in Matthews County. My husband, Dr. Kier, and our children have fostered many cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and turtles".

Karen Smithwick, DVM is a native of Virginia. After attending Old Dominion University for her undergraduate studies, she went on to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. She has been practicing small animal medicine focusing primarily on emergency and critical care, with interests in preventative care, surgery and geriatric patients. Dr. Smithwick loves building strong client and patient relationships and helping the human-animal bond thrive through health and wellness.

Dr. Smithwick and Dr. Kier met and married at Virginia Tech, and have raised three children in Virginia Beach. They have two rescue dogs, an Australian Shepard (Bindi) and an Australian Cattle Dog (Opal), plus a Maine coon cat, and three additional cats of dubious lineage. In her spare time, she enjoys walking with her dogs on the beach, traveling, gardening, boating, and reading. She looks forward to growing the practice and serving the community.


Richard B. Johnston. B. S., D.V.M

Dr. Johnston started with us in 2013. After an overwhelming amount of client praise, he decided to come and be our new full-time doctor in May of 2015. Dr. Johnston got his undergrad and his degree for Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida (Go Gators!).

Dr. Johnston has been caring for animals for 30+ years. If you haven't met Dr. Johnston be sure to come say hi!

Reception Staff



Christine is our head receptionist/ superstar of the front desk. She started here in September of 2014 and has brought smiles to everyone's face ever since.

Christine went to Tidewater Community College and Hampton University (Go Pirates!) and studied science.

Christine loves all pets and has two of her own. She has a cat named Alice and a dog named Tyrion.

Nursing Staff

Patty Trainum, L.V.T.

Most of our long time clients have come to know our technician, Patty Trainum, very well. She has been with us since 1992 and is an extremely valued member of our team. Many of our animal lovers have asked us, what is an animal technician and how does her position differ from that of an assistant? An animal technician receives a college degree in Veterinary Technology and must pass both national and state boards in order to receive certification. In order to stay certified, a technician must take six hours of continuing education yearly. Veterinarians rely very much on their technicians to perform many specialized duties in the same way that a medical doctor depends on an R.N.. Patty became an L.V.T. in 1981. She began working here with Dr. Gearheart in 1992 and stayed on when Dr. Hastings bought the practice in 1994. We are all very fortunate to have such a dedicated and skilled person caring for your beloved family members.

Morgan Huffman, L.V.T.

Morgan is originally from North Carolina but has called Virginia Beach her home since 2005. She is a Licensed Veterinary Technician with more than 17 years of experience working in veterinary medicine. She received her AAS degree in Business Management from Tidewater Community College in 2010 and her AAS in Veterinary Technology from Penn Foster in 2016. She believes in compassionate animal care and strives to make each patient feel safe, loved, and comforted during their vet visits. She is currently working toward a Fear Free certification. Her favorite things to do in our hospital are diagnostics, dental hygiene procedures, and client education. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and riding motorcycles with her husband. She has 2 spoiled cats named Atreyu and Magi.


Samantha joined our team in early 2019. She previously worked for the veterinary services on Sigonella base in Sicily. She is currently studying to be a Licensed Veterinary Technician. Sam has a love for all animals and is frequently seen carrying one of our patients or boarding pets around with her on her breaks. We are so happy to have found such a caring person to take care of your pets.


Faith has worked with us as a veterinary assistant since January of 2020. She is currently a senior at Old Dominion University studying biology and business administration. After graduation, Faith wants to attend veterinary school and become a doctor of veterinary medicine. She has bearded dragons, guinea pigs, and a rabbit at home that she loves dearly. In her free time, she loves to travel and go to concerts. She loves being able to comfort your fur babies when they come in for their appointments!



Chase works for us part-time and is trained as both a receptionist and a veterinary assistant. She also serves in the Army National Guard and is in college studying to be a medical doctor. She strives to make sure our patients feel safe and comfortable while they are in our care. She has a bulldog named Cujo and a Great Dane puppy We look forward to one day calling her Doctor!

Grooming Staff


Kathy Gossett

Kathy has built an excellent reputation in this area grooming dogs and cats for over 35 years. She is a native of Tidewater, growing up right here in Pembroke Shores. Kathy and her husband, Jack, had been our clients for five years before she started with us. They have a beautiful cat named Zedd. If you haven't had the opportunity to meet her, you must come by to say hi. Once you meet her, you will definitely agree we have found a treasure.