San Diego Spine Foundation



2019 Annual Report Available

2019 Annua lReport CoverAnother year of pursuing the Foundation's research goals led to our presentations at meetings around the world. It was an eventful year. We're pleased to welcome SDSF’s newest addition to the Board of Directors: Samuel Ward, Ph.D., Vice Chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at UCSD.

Our fundraising efforts to help establish the first Endowed Chair in Spine Surgery at UCSD have been realized, reaching the goal of two million dollars! This was a concerted effort supported by SDSF, private and corporate donors, and the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at UCSD.

This year's report also features new patient stories to personalize the importance of our work. You can read stories from Jennifer and Nathan to read two very different but equally compelling tales of spinal disorders and treatments.

Our mission is ongoing and the need does not decline. We invite you to download our 2019 Annual Report and ask that you consider the Foundation as a part of your annual giving plan. 

Download 2019 Annual Report Here

We Got There!

We're pleased to announce that we met the  goal of raising funds to establish the Behrooz A. Akbarnia and Nasrin Owsia Akbarnia Endowed Spine Chair in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at UCSD.  This is the first ever endowed chair for this Department at UCSD.  Dr. Akbarnia is extremely honored to have this Endowed Chair in his name, with a focus on building bridges between UCSD and the San Diego Spine Community, as well as to promote research and education. 

SDSF was a proud contributor to this effort and along with the UCSD Dept. of Orthopedic Surgery, industry and private supporters, we got to the finish line!   

We're grateful to all who helped out. You can learn more in this year's Annual Report.


New Outreach Video

SDSF Mission Video

Watch this heart-warming video to learn more about SDSF and our Outreach activities in under-served communities.


SDSF in a COVID-19 World

SDSF and the San Diego Spine Fellowship Program continue to be operational during this historic pandemic.  Thanks to the combined dedication of our faculty, fellows and staff, training continues largely via Zoom conferencing with all bi-weekly spine conferences, research meetings and Journal Club meetings being held via online conferencing.  Our Visiting Professorship Meeting for 2020 will be reassessed in the near future, based on state and local mandates.  We hope to fully engaged with our spine community as soon as we are able.  

In the meantime, SDSF hopes everyone will stay well so we can bend the curve and resume normal operations.  Best wishes to everyone!

Introducing Mai Lee, aPHR

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SDSF is pleased to welcome Mai Lee, aPHR as the newest member of our family, with her primary role as Fellowship Administrator.  Mai received her B.S. in Business Administration from San Diego State University.  She has a background in human resources and has held various HR roles in the areas of onboarding, recruiting, training, employee relations, benefits, and systems.  Mai spent the majority of her career working for a non-profit research institute and was most recently at a clinical-stage biotech company before joining the San Diego Spine Foundation.  She enjoys supporting organizations that are making meaningful impact to improving human health and quality of life.  She enjoys exploring San Diego, cooking, and spending time with family located in San Diego and Minnesota. 

2020 Winter Gala - Thank You!

The SDSF-GSO combined winter Gala, held on February 28, 2020 at the Hyatt Aventine Hotel, was a tremendous success.  We cannot thank everyone enough who contributed to our success.  All photos from our event can be viewed on our webpage at 

Welcome!  2019 - 2020 Clinical Fellows

Ryan Hoel MD
Ryan J. Hoel, MD
Ruwan Ratnayake MD
Ruwan P. Ratnayake, MD
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Jakub Godzik, MD
Corey Walker.BNI.Future Fellow.SDSF Website Photo.jpeg
Corey Walker, MD

The San Diego Spine Fellowship is proud to welcome 4 new physicians for 2019-2020.  Our post-residency fellows, Ryan J. Hoel from University of Minnesota and Ruwan P. Ratnayake from University of California, Davis, will train with us for one full year beginning August 1, 2020.  In addition, we will welcome 2 Barrow Neurological Institute PGY-6 residents from Phoenix, AZ for their elective fellowship training: Jakub Godzik (Aug 1 2019 to January 15, 2020) and Corey Walker (January 16 to June 30, 2020). 

Our faculty looks forward to the tremendous exchange that will take place this coming year.  Welcome Ryan, Ruwan, Jakub and Corey!

Announcing our New Clinical Fellows for 2020-2021

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Robert J. Ames, MD
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Daniel Reid, MD, MPH

The San Diego Spine Fellowship is so pleasd to announce the newest members to our SDSF Family:  2020-2021 Clinical Fellows Robert J. Ames, MD from Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA and Daniel Reid, MD, MPH from Brown University, Warren Alpert School of Medicine in Providence, RI.  Welcome gentlemen, we will look forward to having you join our team.

Congratulations Dr. Mundis!


SDSF is pleased to announce that one of the 2019 Scoliosis Research Society Traveling Fellow Awards goes to Gregory M. Mundis, Jr., MD.  This prestigious award is presented annually to 3 junior members of the society along, who will be accompanied by a senior member of SRS.  They will travel to Africa in August-Sept. 2019 for 3 weeks and will observe Spine Centers along the way, both giving lectures as well as attending educational forums, surgeries and clinics.  These 4 Traveling Fellows will serve as ambassadors for the SRS, buidling long-term relationships with all host surgeons and their teams.

SDSF held its 2019 San Diego Spine Visiting Professorship Meeting on Friday, July 26, 2019 at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines Hotel.  

The 2019 Visiting Professors:

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Michael P. Kelly, MD, MSCI, Associate Professor; Dept. of Orthopedic Surgery, Associate Professor; Dept. of Neurosurgery, Washington University Medical Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.

ALEX VACCARO, MD, PHD, MBA, FACS, Chairman of Orthopaedics, Thomas Jefferson University. Endowed Chair: Richard H. Rothman, Professor and Chairman; Dept. of Orthopaedic Surgery,Elected President of the Rothman Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In addition to having 2 world-class Visiting Professors again this year, our faculty is becoming increasingly diverse, including both Neurosurgical and Orthopedic Surgery disciplines, as well as having a broad scope of knowledge. This year’s faculty included past SDSF fellows who have entered academia in Seattle (Rajiv Saigal, MD, PhD, M.Sc.), Philadelphia (Amrit Khalsa, MD) and St. Louis (Pooria Salari, MD).  Our Co-Chair, Edward Nomoto, MD, is another past SDSF Fellow who has made marks at Cedars Sinai as well as by a leading surgeon volunteer doing outreach work in Mexico. They all complement our growing number of faculty from Southern California as well as San Diego.  

Thank you to all faculty who volunteer their time to educate the Southern California medical and allied health spine community with the goal of improved patient care, and thank you to all Industry Exhbitors who help to make this course possible.


Our Mission

To Foster Excellence in Education, Research and Outreach Related to the Care of Patients with Spinal Disorders, their Families and the Medical Community.

Board of Directors

Our Vision

Building Bridges in the Spine Community

Spine Fellowships

Fellowship training is critical to the advancement of spinal care. The Foundation supports the San Diego Spine Fellowship program. All participating surgeons in the program are nationally recognized specialists in both non-operative and operative spine care.

For physicians seeking information about applying for the Fellowship program, please Learn More Here.