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Ian Backlund, MD

Residency: University of Virginia

Ian spent most of his early days in Upstate South Carolina. It took a significant physical injury riding motocross to change his trajectory to peruse a higher education and career in orthopaedic surgery. This came after realizing the parallels in craftsmanship and mechanics from his childhood and their application to the orthopaedic injuries that he sustained.

Following high school, he transitioned to the coast for his higher education, entering as a first-generation college student and graduating cum laude from Coastal Carolina University. He spent several years continuing his home theater installation business and perusing research in Orthopaedics with Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas before attending the Medical University of South Carolina with a full merit-based scholarship.

Following medical school, Ian completed his residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Virginia. At UVA he perused research in advancements in the specialty. Some of his projects involved the biomedical engineering students at UVA, resulting in a single-handed knee aspirator and an ACL tibial guide to improve tibial tunnel placement for reconstructions. He assisted in acquiring the department’s first 3D printer and applied projects to orthopaedic surgery patient and resident education. His desire for advancement of orthopaedics drew him to the dynamic and evolving subspecialty of sports medicine. He enjoyed his time as the team physician for the Woodberry Forrest Varsity Football Team all 5 years of his residency. He is honored to complete his training with the world-renowned physicians at The Steadman Clinic and research team at Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

Ian has many hobbies including home renovation, automobile mechanics, performance engine building, woodworking, graphic design, painting, hiking and snowboarding. His wife Jamie, son Ryan and his dog Milla will join him for the year in Vail, and look forward to adventures in such an exciting and beautiful part of the country.

Mark Cinque, MD

Residency: Stanford University Medical Center

Born and raised in Santa Rosa California, Mark completed his undergraduate education at The University of California, Berkeley. After being exposed to orthopaedic sports medicine during college, he quickly forged the path forward to becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Mark attended Georgetown University School of Medicine where he obtained a master’s degree in physiology and biophysics, and his medical degree. During medical school, he worked at The Steadman Clinic as a lower extremity clinical outcomes research coordinator, and authored 80 peer-reviewed publications during his year in Vail.

Following his time at Georgetown, Mark pursued orthopaedic residency training at Stanford University. During his time at Stanford, he was involved in covering and treating Stanford athletes across several sports. Mark also completed a traveling fellowship at The Oslo University Hospital in Oslo Norway focused on complex knee surgery.

Mark is honored to be returning to The Steadman Clinic/Steadman Philippon Research Institute as a fellow. Outside of work, Mark enjoys skiing, soccer, golf and traveling.

Emre Eren, MD

Residency: Summa Health System

Emre was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio with his five brothers and two sisters. Ever competitive, he grew up playing soccer, swimming and playing rugby through high school. He attended the Ohio State University for undergrad, where he continued to play rugby. He received his medical education at University of Toledo College of Medicine where he discovered a passion for orthopaedic surgery.

Emre completed his residency at Summa Health in Akron, Ohio. While there, he decided to follow his mentors into the world of orthopaedic foot and ankle surgery. He has continued to be active and recently finished an Iron Man 70.3 in St. George, Utah. He is excited for the opportunity to learn under the world-renowned mentors at SPRI. He enjoys golf, beach volleyball, and pretty much all outdoor activities. He’s looking forward to experiencing everything Vail and Colorado have to offer.

Ajay Kanakamedala, MD

Residency: New York University Langone Health

Ajay was born in New York City and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis and then returned to Pittsburgh to attend the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where he was co-president of his school's chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society. During medical school, Ajay conducted research within the field of sports medicine and published numerous journal articles and book chapters related to knee ligament reconstruction and shoulder surgery. He received several awards for his research including a poster award at the 2018 Canadian Orthopaedic Association Meeting and a certificate of merit for excellence in his scholarly research project. He graduated as a junior member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society in the top 4% of his medical school class and was awarded the Harold Henderson Sankey, M.D. Award in Orthopaedic Surgery, given to the top graduating medical student entering the field of orthopaedic surgery.

Ajay went on to complete his orthopaedic surgery residency training at the NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital. He continued to perform sports medicine research and published multiple peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters on shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle surgery in addition to presenting his work at national conferences. He received several awards during this time, including the EOEF Cynthia L. Lichtefeld Resident/Fellow Award for Outstanding Paper, an AAOS Orthopaedic Video Theater Award, and the Senior Resident Clinical Research award for his work during residency. He was also an AOSSM Steven P. Arnoczky Young Investigator Research Grant Finalist in addition to being the recipient of a Resident Research Grant.

Ajay is incredibly honored and excited to continue his training as a fellow at Steadman Philippon Research Institute. Ajay loves working out and trying new sports and is excited to explore all the outdoor activities that the Vail Valley has to offer. His wife, Krupali, is also a physician and will be staying in New York to complete her Pain Medicine fellowship. Although she will not be joining Ajay for the year, she looks forward to frequent visits to Vail and hitting the slopes with Ajay.

Dan Kopolovich, MD

Residency: San Antonio Military Medical Center

Dan was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He attended Princeton University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in History. He started for four years on the Varsity Football Team as a defensive back and was an All-Ivy League defensive selection and earned Academic All-Ivy League Team Honors. Following undergraduate training, he attended Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. After medical school, he joined the United States Air Force and did his residency training in orthopaedics at San Antonio Military Medical Center.

Upon completion of his residency, he was stationed at Langley Air Force Base where he worked as a general orthopaedic surgeon for four years and served as the orthopaedic surgery medical director and element leader. He was deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia from 2021–2022 in support of Operation Spartan Shield and was the flight commander for the expeditionary health force. While deployed, he earned the Meritorious Service Medal. In addition, he was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal.

He separated from the Air Force in 2023 and will be moving to Vail with his wife Tijana and four children. He is honored and excited about living in Vail Valley and working at Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

Brad Kruckeberg, MD

Residency: Mayo Clinic, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Brad was born and raised in rural, southern Minnesota. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College (MN) and was a four-year letter winner for the Gustie football team. Brad attended medical school at the University of Minnesota. Between his 3rd and 4th year, he had the privilege of working as a research assistant in the BME department at SPRI, which Brad identifies as one of the best professional and personal experiences of his life. He was fortunate to match close to home at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for residency. His wife, Bre, is a dentist and they share three beautiful children: Liam (4), Liv (2) and Luka (8 months).

Ali Noorzad, MD

Residency: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Ali was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and eventually moved to South Jersey, where he graduated from Cherry Hill High School East. After high school he attended George Mason University where he was a member of the Psychology Honors Program, and graduated magna cum laude.

During his undergraduate studies, he was invited to try out for National Olympic Basketball Team of Afghanistan, and was inaugurated onto the team as one of the youngest members on the roster. He played professional basketball overseas, competing in various countries including China, Taiwan and Qatar, and competed in several regional Olympic competitions during his tenure. He’s competed in multiple professional basketball tournaments throughout the world and led his team to a Gold Medal victory in the 2010 South Asian Olympics after beating India—recording Afghanistan’s first ever Olympic Gold Medal in a team event.

Ali went attended medical school at Northeast Ohio Medical University where he graduated as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. After medical school, he completed his Orthopaedic Surgery Residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, where he published several peer-reviewed articles that have been presented nationally. During his time there, he had the opportunity to work closely with both fellows and faculty at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Institute

Following residency, he completed his Sports Medicine Fellowship at The Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute in Vail, CO. Ali will be staying an additional year in Vail to work alongside Drs Marc Philippon and Joel Matta in the Hip Preservation Fellowship.

Ali is joined in Vail by his wife Salma, and their little ones: Zara, Sami Dean, and Aliya. They love food, basketball, hiking, biking, kayaking and all the festivities Colorado has to offer.

Mike Rizzo, MD

Residency: Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami

Mike was born and raised in St. Louis, MO, where he attended Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS). He later attended Harvard University where he concentrated in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a secondary field in Computer Science and graduated magna cum laude. Mike returned to St. Louis to attend medical school at Washington University. Mike's technical prowess led him to co-found a surgical resident autonomy tracking application called ""Zwisch Me!"" It has been adopted by over 50 programs across various surgical subspecialties.

Mike completed his Orthopaedic Surgery residency at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital where he was chosen to be Administrative Chief Resident. He greatly enjoyed his time in Miami, particularly because of the program’s high volume of trauma, close-knit group of residents and the weather. His passion for technology continued to shape his career, winning him accolades and the opportunity to expand his research interests. His research efforts are largely focused on the integration of new computer technologies in orthopaedic surgical care and education. This dedication was recognized with the Coulter Grant, awarded for the development of an augmented reality application.

Mike is an ardent lover of the outdoors, and his hobbies include swimming, running, golfing, hiking, fishing and skiing. Mike is incredibly excited to train under the outstanding SPRI faculty and explore all Vail and the Rockies have to offer

Michael B. Stuart, MD

Residency: Mayo Clinic, School of Graduate Medical Education

Mike Stuart was born in Chicago, IL and grew up in Rochester, MN. He graduated from Colorado College where he captained the men’s Division I ice hockey team. After college, he pursued a professional hockey career with the St. Louis Blues (NHL), Graz 99ers (Austrian Champions League) and Lorenskog Ice Hockey Club (Oslo Norway). He then returned to academic pursuits and received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School. He completed his Orthopaedic Surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where he received the Outstanding Achievement Award for Clinical Competency and the Joseph M Janes MD Humanitarian Award.

Mike, along with his wife Heather, daughter Mila, son Michael and chocolate lab Tula, are very excited for their move to Vail. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, fishing, hunting, cycling, mountain biking and golf. Mike is very grateful for the opportunity to train at SPRI and The Steadman Clinic and return to Colorado to show his family why he fell in love with it many years ago.

Emily Whicker, MD

Residency: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Born and raised in Potomac, Maryland, Emily attended the Holton-Arms School where she was a three-sport varsity athlete. She then went on to Williams College where she graduated with Honors in Biology and a Spanish minor. During her time at Williams, she was a member of the varsity lacrosse team and was a ski instructor for the outdoors club. She then moved down south to attend Emory Medical School where she served as the president of the orthopaedic interest group, coordinator for free clinics in Atlanta and co-president for CRASH, a concussion awareness program for local high schools.

She went on to complete her orthopaedic residency at the University of Pittsburgh where she was selected as the education chief and co-founded the Women in Ortho Mentorship Group. Working closely with the sports department at UPMC, she published research related to both sports medicine and women in orthopaedics that has been presented both nationally and internationally. She also provided sideline coverage for local high school football teams as well as for Pitt, fostering her love of sports medicine.

Emily is excited and honored to continue her training at Steadman Philippon Research Institute. She and her husband, Patrick, are excited to move to the Vail Valley with their dog, Rainey, and cat, Ari. They enjoy skiing, hiking and biking and look forward to living out Emily's childhood dream of living in the Vail Valley.

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