Ilaria Borghese, President & Co-Founder of STAAR

Ilaria Borghese, MS, MA, OT

CEO & Co-Founder

Ilaria obtained her MS in Neuroscience from the University of Connecticut.  She was Clinical Coordinator for the Brain Research Center-Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC, challenged with assessing new drug treatments for children with Autism.  She continued her studies at Yale University School of Medicine and published several articles in peer-reviewed medical journals.

She continued her education at New York University and received her MA in Occupational Therapy.  Ilaria used her research and therapy skills to work with canine patients.  In 2001, she started Thera-Paw, Inc. a company that develops, manufactures, and distributes splints, braces, soft orthoses, protective garments, mobility aids, and other assistive products for animals with special needs.  Ilaria spends much of her time custom-fabricating these devices and working closely with small animal practitioners to develop novel approaches to custom splinting and bracing.  She teaches throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, and has contributed to the 2013 publication Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (J. Wiley & Sons).

In 2010, Ilaria co-founded STAAR, the Symposium on Therapeutic Advances in Animal Rehabilitation, a conference for veterinary professionals that brings advanced courses in comprehensive animal care taught by the leaders in the field.

In 2020, Ilaria co-founded Vital Vet, a multi-platform supercenter dedicated to improve the lives of our animal companions.  All things related to veterinary rehabilitation, animal physical therapy, and pet fitness can now be found in one central location to help veterinary professionals and dedicated pet parents learn, connect, and make more informed decisions.  

Ilaria has a special interest in Greyhound dogs and their unique medical issues.  She has lectured and written articles on paw-related conditions in ex-racing Greyhounds, and has conducted and co-authored one of the largest epidemiological studies on the breed.  

Maria Denzer

COO & Co-Founder

Maria received a BS in Business Administration and worked at several retail and computer software/hardware companies before coming to work for Thera-Paw, Inc, in  2005.  Maria is the General Manager for Thera-Paw and coordinates the development and manufacturing processes for new assistive products for animals with special needs.  She works closely with other developers, manufacturers, and distributors to consolidate efforts and maximize exposure in the veterinary rehabilitative markets.

Maria is the Co-Founder of STAAR and is responsible for coordinating the Conference's schedule and venue.  She is known to frequent STAAR attendees as "The Cruise Director," since she is responsible for orchestrating the social gatherings during the Conference.

When not behind the desk or on the phone, Maria enjoys spending time with her dogs.  Her medical experiences with her Labrador, Haley (2 ACL surgeries, mast cell tumor removal, and pacemaker) and her pocket-pittie, Asher (patellar surgery, cerebellar abiotrophy) have helped her to better understand the special needs of animals and their owners.  At home, Maria enjoys softball, volleyball, cooking, gardening and hanging out with her third level Dressage horse, Inferrous.

Jill Fox

Director of Marketing & Dog Volunteer Coordinator

Jill is an experienced Marketing Professional with a passion for helping animals.  Since earning her degree in Psychology, with an emphasis in Marketing, she has amassed over fifteen years of experience in Marketing Communications, Event Management and Digital Media.

As a Marketing Consultant, Jill has clients in many different industries, but most enjoys working with animal-related businesses. Having consulted for companies focused on rehabilitating animals with special needs, such as Thera-Paw and Able Pet, the move to STAAR was a natural progression. She is thrilled to have this opportunity to combine her expertise with her love of animals.

In addition to STAAR marketing, Jill also works closely with conference sponsors and exhibitors, as well as our invaluable dog volunteers.

When not in the office, Jill spends much of her time working with animal rescue groups, pet-sitting, and relaxing at home with her husband and “furry children.”

Cathy Foster

Participant Coordinator

Cathy earned her degree in Business Administration from George Washington University.  After graduation she spent 16 years on Wall Street working for IBM as a marketing manager in the International Banking division.  During that time, she enjoyed the challenge of collaborating with senior bank executives on implementing advanced computer technologies in their data centers across the country.

"Retiring" from corporate life to raise her children, Cathy has been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in many aspects of community life.  She has spent the last several years volunteering in the school system and on local boards such as the planning board, trail association, parks committee and athletic association.

Cathy and her husband Steve spend their free time watching their sons play lacrosse, riding their horses, and caring for their small farm.  Cathy's latest challenge is participating in obedience and Schutzhund training with her german shepherd Gunner.

Johanna Gaber

Tradeshow Art & Marketing Coordinator

Johanna is a Graphic Designer with a background in Fine Arts.  She attended Parsons School of Design and obtained her BA from Western Washington University.  She has over 15 years of experience in designing and developing dynamic trade show graphics and digital media.  

Johanna became involved with STAAR while working at Thera-Paw, Inc. Her love of animals and passion for helping rescue dogs and finding them forever homes made her a natural fit with STAAR.

When not on her computer, Johanna enjoys horseback riding and spending time with her husband and her four-legged family.