Our story

Spine-health.com was started in August 1999 by Peter Ullrich, MD, and Stephanie Burke, with a shared goal of providing intelligent, unbiased and highly relevant medical information for people with back pain, neck pain and related conditions. Doctor Ullrich in particular was adamant that patients should have the benefit of health information that is unbiased, comprehensive and reliable, and that the way to get that was through a formal peer review process (similar to a medical journal). When this idea was originally proposed to several spine specialists from different disciplines, they were so enthusiastic that they offered to write articles for the site to help get it started. Soon after, a group of leaders from different fields of spine medicine—spine surgery, physiatry, anesthesiology and pain medicine, chiropractic, physical therapy, and psychology—volunteered to start the site’s Medical Advisory Board and review articles prior to publication on the site.

This powerful collaboration of spine medicine professionals quickly led Spine-health.com to become the most popular spine medicine site on the Internet. Today over 100 spine health professionals write for the site, and the 17-member Medical Advisory Board is diligent about reviewing every article for accuracy and completeness prior to publication.

In early 2000, several physicians who used Spine-health’s patient education in their practice approached us about listing their practice information on Spine-health.com. They stressed that they would pay a membership fee, provided that Spine-health.com maintained standards about who could join (similar to a medical society or association). From this start, our online physician directory has grown to provide full-service websites for physician members who are board certified or board eligible and specialize in spine medicine.

Spine-health.com is now recognized within the spine medicine community as the most reliable and comprehensive online patient education resource. Thousands of spine physicians regularly refer their patients to Spine-health.com as part of their treatment protocol. The site’s unique approach—multi-disciplinary and peer reviewed information written specifically for the layperson—has set the standard for high-quality patient education on the Internet.

For more background on Spine-health.com, read about our Medical Advisors and our Contributing Authors.

About the principals

Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD, Co-founder and Medical Director
In 1999, just as the Internet was starting to widely disseminate free health information, Dr. Ullrich noticed that more and more of his patients were coming into his office with information from the Internet that was either incomplete, misleading, or just plain wrong. He saw an opportunity: provide patients with the same quality of peer-reviewed, non-commercial information that doctors have access to, but written specifically for the patient and provided for free on the Internet. This was the founding idea for Spine-health.com.

Prior to retirement, Dr. Ullrich was a practicing orthopedic spine surgeon. He completed a spine fellowship at The University of Utah and an orthopedic surgery residency program at Grand Rapids, and he holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Doctor Ullrich is the principal author of the "Overview of Back and Neck Pain" portion of the site, which was also reviewed by several other physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists.

Stephanie Burke, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer
In 1999, after several years of consulting for healthcare companies, Stephanie was looking for a career change to something more entrepreneurial. Her last few consulting engagements were focused on Internet strategies for healthcare companies and she believed that the Internet could substantially enhance certain aspects of the healthcare market. During a long talk with her brother, Dr. Peter Ullrich, the idea of Spine-health.com was created.

From the business side, the temptation was to seek venture capital and build a large (expensive) infrastructure. After all, this was 1999, the height of the dotcom boom. But Stephanie wanted to ignore all that and quite simply build a company that offered high quality services at very affordable prices, which meant keeping a low cost structure. An educational grant from Sulzer Spine-Tech Inc. provided the initial means to get the website started, and corporate sponsorships still help fund the patient education site, and allow us to provide physician membership services for minimal cost and online patient education for free.

Prior to Spine-health.com, Stephanie was a healthcare internet strategy consultant at McKinsey and Company, where she consulted to healthcare and financial services clients on business strategy, organizational design and performance management. Stephanie holds an MBA from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, and a BA, magna cum laude, from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.