About Us

Established in 2002 and headquartered in Reston, VA, the National Spine Health Foundation (SHF), formerly known as the Spinal Research Foundation (SRF), is a patient-focused 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to improving spinal health care through research, education, and patient advocacy. We support those impacted by spinal injuries and disorders by empowering them with knowledge and hope as they regain their health and quality of life.

SHF has dedicated over 50,000 hours to research for the purpose of driving innovation and proving the effectiveness of surgical and non-surgical treatments. We’ve built a national network of distinguished partners, consisting of the nation’s leading spine clinics and research practices. Through our research, we are proving what works – opening the door for patients to receive the most effective treatments and achieve the best possible outcomes.

Learn more about our research initiatives here.

We bring together patient experiences, medical expertise, and research findings to offer much needed support to patients as they embark on their spinal health journey. We use our expertise to provide meaningful, accessible information to help patients achieve improved spinal health, strengthen provider-patient relationships, and reduce uncertainty and anxiety.

Gain access to our free Journal of the Spinal Research Foundation library here!

The journey to spinal health is not one that can be made alone. The Foundation brings together patients and the nation’s leading spine experts to drive unique patient support initiatives. Our efforts empower patients to take an active role in their healthcare, help them become self- advocates, and provide cutting-edge research and information they can use to make informed decisions and communicate effectively with their healthcare team.

See how you can get involved at an upcoming event!


The National Spine Heath Foundation’s leadership is committed to empowering patients with knowledge and hope. The staff, Board of Directors, and Centers of Excellence are dedicated to the mission of the Foundation.


Rita Roy, MS, MD
Rita Roy, MS, MDChief Executive Officer
Dr. Roy is a physician and entrepreneur in the use of emerging technology for healthcare communication and education. She is a co-founder of Convergent AV, a Reston-based firm specializing in e-learning solutions and virtual conferences support for medical and healthcare associations and institutions. During her career, Dr. Roy has used her technology expertise to build complex web applications, transform ideas into successful internet-based business models, and advise and develop e-learning web applications using database driven marketing strategies for nonprofits, associations, and universities.
Christopher Gorini, PhD
Christopher Gorini, PhDResearch Director
Chris Gorini, Research Director, oversees the foundation’s research program, establishing research priorities, developing and maintaining collaborative research partnerships to further the mission of the organization, and advising the SHF President and Board of Directors on research projects and areas of scientific interest. With his help and expertise, SHF is able to maintain a research environment that encourages creativity and collaboration.

Prior to coming to SHF, Chris was a Staff Fellow at the FDA in the Center for Devices & Radiological Health in the Office of Science & Engineering labs. His FDA research focused on projects examining disorders of the peripheral and central nervous systems using optogenetics (a technique where light is used to control nerve function) and brain electrode implants. This research was used as a means for disease treatment over long-time scales. In addition to bench work, Chris acted as a subject matter expert for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), Department of Defense, and Veterans Affairs Neurotechnology grants. While at FDA he acted as a certified reviewer for FDA medical device consults, premarket reviews, and investigational device submissions. Chris completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Bioengineering at Stanford University where he worked on control of peripheral motor neurons using optogenetic and pharmacological techniques in order to better control involuntary muscle movement, and pain. Chris earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from The George Washington University where he received a pre-doctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association for his work on brainstem control of heart rate.

Sabrina M. Woodlief, CC
Sabrina M. Woodlief, CCSenior Manager, Community Engagement
Sabrina coordinates the ongoing clinical trials at SHF and works to maintain integrity of the data by ensuring good clinical practices and adherence to study protocols. She is also responsible for the delivery of our current educational initiatives, including serving as the Associate Editor of the Journal of the Spinal Research Foundation. Sabrina also serves as the System Administrator for SpineOnline, our web-based research platform, providing ongoing support to both patients and providers.

Since graduating from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Sabrina has strengthened her skills in market research, deliverable content and editing, and project management. Prior to moving to Virginia, she worked at a mental and behavioral health consulting firm and was responsible for conducting market research and the editing, formatting, and production of client deliverables. Sabrina continues to develop her leadership, communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills as a member of Toastmasters. She most recently completed the requirements for Competent Communicator award, served as President for her local club 2016 – 2018, and has been selected as the District 29, Division D, Area 41 Director.

Henry Copeland
Henry CopelandFinancial Assistant
Henry maintains SHF’s financial records by establishing accounts, tracking transactions, and ensuring legal requirements compliance. He diligently reconciles accounts to ensure their accuracy and maintains an orderly accounting filing system.

Board of Directors

Michael H. Howland
Michael H. HowlandChairman
Mr. Howland is a retired career diplomat and businessman. He commenced a public service career with an eight-year stint in the US Military, including a tour in Vietnam. He followed his public service career by founding and operating a groundbreaking technology firm. He recently retired and is now an author, presently writing a major book on the Iranian Revolution.

Mr. Howland holds a graduate degree from Georgetown University in International Law & Politics. He was also on the staff of Georgetown University for two years prior to joining the US Foreign Service, where he served throughout the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. In 1979, Mr. Howland was one of 52 American diplomats taken hostage by Iranian terrorists and held prisoner for nearly two years.

Mr. Howland lives in Middleburg, VA where he is active in the community with a focus on helping children. He is past President of the Board of Directors of Creative Youth and A Place to Be Foundations. Both organizations help disadvantaged and challenged children find a voice through the performing arts. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Cherry Blossom Foundation, a breast cancer organization, as well as the current Vice President of the Board of Trustees of The Hill School, Middleburg, VA. He resides in Middleburg with his wife Kathy and their two English Setters. Mike is an avid fly fisherman and chases trout, with moderate success, anyplace he can find them.

Thomas C. Schuler, MD, FACS
Thomas C. Schuler, MD, FACSPresident
Dr. Schuler is CEO and founder of the Virginia Spine Institute. He has previously been the spine consultant to the Washington Redskins and frequently treats professional and amateur athletes. Dr. Schuler is a pioneer in the advancement of disc arthroplasty, minimally invasive spine surgery, and regenerative therapies. He has revolutionized spinal health care across the Washington, DC metropolitan area and the nation.

Dr. Schuler is the Physician Assistant Fellowship Program Director at the Virginia Spine Institute. Dr. Schuler is a distinguished fellow in both the American College of Spine Surgery and the American College of Surgeons. He is a member of the North American Spine Society, and the U.S. Capital Chapter of the World Presidents’ Organization.

Kevin M. Burke
Kevin M. BurkeSecretary
Mr. Burke is the President and CEO of Centuria. Since founding the company in 2002, Mr. Burke has guided Centuria through five consecutive years on the Inc. 500 index of America’s fastest growing companies and four consecutive years on the Washington Technology Fast 50. Prior to founding Centuria, he founded Synapse Incorporated, which grew to over 40 employees in less than twenty-four months. Before building these companies, he served as a technical resource for MCI, a GS employee within the Department of Health & Human Services, and a United States Marine. Mr. Burke has been featured in Inc. Magazine and is an executive committee member of the Washington Baltimore Chapter of Young Presidents’ Organization.
Brian D. Nault
Brian D. NaultTreasurer
Mr. Nault is the Chairman, CEO, and Co-founder of AOC Applied Technologies Corporation (ATCorp) and BlueWater Federal Solutions, Inc. He is a proven executive with experience in the fields of financial services, technology, and Federal Government contracting. With his passion for our “Nation’s future,” Mr. Nault and his companies support several important charities, including St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Special Olympics, and the Redskins Foundation.
William H. Evers, Jr., PhD
William H. Evers, Jr., PhDMember of the board
Dr. Evers is President and CEO of Systems, Technology & Science, LLC, which he founded in 1998. He is responsible for both setting the strategic direction of the firm and insuring its day-to-day execution. Dr. Evers currently serves as a member of the independent Scientific & Engineering Review Group (iSERG) of the Missile Defense Agency. He previously served as a member of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Tactical Battlefield Communications, Vice Chair of the Army Science Board, member of the Executive Committee of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Army Science & Technology, and was a consultant to the Defense Science Board 1993 Summer Study on Global Surveillance. Dr. Evers also served as the Chairman of the Laser Device Panel of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Research & Engineering’s High Energy Laser Review Group (HELRG).
Christopher R. Good, MD, FACS
Christopher R. Good, MD, FACSMember of the board
Dr. Good has pioneered the use of robotics and navigation in spine surgery, established as a world expert in the field. Most recently, he performed the first and the most advanced robotic spine surgery using Mazor X Stealth Edition technology. Through extensive research, his surgical techniques are proven to decrease complications and improve patient safety and recovery time. The wide-reaching impact of his innovation has transformed the lives of patients suffering from complex neck or back conditions. His passion to become a spine surgeon began at an early age when his father suffered a traumatic spinal injury. Heralded for his compassionate approach, Dr. Good personally connects with patients, working together to create a tailored treatment plan that will achieve their goals for recovery.

As the President of Virginia Spine Institute, Dr. Good has also pioneered the use of regenerative stem cell therapy for lumbar disc disease, helping many patients with low back pain to improve their quality of life and avoid surgery; he has performed the most intra-discal injections of stem cells in the region. He is currently studying the outcomes of his patients and uses these outcome studies to improve access to these revolutionary treatments for more people who suffer from back pain.

Through his leadership and vast experience, Dr. Good is reshaping the future of spine surgery and his research has helped develop surgical techniques that are proven to improve patient safety, decrease radiation during surgery, and reduce recovery time. Dr. Good is the principal investigator of an FDA trial investigating a revolutionary new cervical disc replacement surgery and participates in multiple scientific advisory boards working to improve patient safety and spinal balance; he routinely presents his findings, both nationally and internationally.

Raymond F. Pugsley
Raymond F. PugsleyNational Race Liaison
Mr. Pugsley earned his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and his Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins. He is co-owner of Potomac River Running, Inc., a running/ walking specialty store with eight locations in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Mr. Pugsley raced competitively at Dartmouth College and as a cross country lover, he’s been going strong for 30 years — he was the US Junior National Cross Country Champion in 1988 and finished second in the US Masters Cross Country race in 2009 and 2013. He takes advantage of his extensive experience with both training and injuries by coaching adults through the PR Running Club, which was created in 2001. As a life-long athlete, Mr. Pugsley strives to help people in the local community stay active and healthy through his stores, coaching, and event support.

Mr. Pugsley knows the importance of spinal health all too well; he underwent a laminectomy (1996) and a spinal fusion (2003) and, after recovery, was once again able to enjoy the athletic life that he loved, most recently winning the RRCA Master’s 10-mile championship at the 2010 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler!

Paul J. Slosar, Jr., MD
Paul J. Slosar, Jr., MDMember of the board
Dr. Slosar is an orthopedic spine surgeon and president of SpineCare Medical Group in San Francisco, CA. Dr. Slosar is also the Medical Director of the SpineCare Institute of San Francisco, Co-Director of the San Francisco Spine Institute, and Director of Surgical Research. Dr. Slosar is board certified by and an oral board examiner for both the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and American Board of Spine Surgery. He has authored many articles in peer-reviewed journals, written book chapters, and given podium presentations at national and international meetings. Dr. Slosar is an editorial board member of several peer-reviewed journals including Spine and The Spine Journal.
Gordon M. Taylor, CPA, CIA, CGMA
Gordon M. Taylor, CPA, CIA, CGMAMember of the Board
Mr. Taylor has been the COO and CFO of the Virginia Spine Institute since 2010. Previously he served as COO and/or CFO, or other senior executive roles at numerous organizations including Maple Life Financial, BenefitNation, Congressional Quarterly Inc., and NCQA. He has a proven track record of success, earning his MBA from Averett University, BS in Economics and BS in Business Administration from West Virginia University. Among various certifications that Mr. Taylor holds, he is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).