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Pain Medicine Fellowship Faculty

University of Colorado Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Fellowship Director:

Jason Friedrich, MD

Dr. Friedrich specializes in diagnosis and non-operative management of spinal disorders, musculoskeletal pain, and peripheral nerve injuries. He is Board Certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Pain Medicine and Sports Medicine. He performs electrodiagnostic testing and a variety interventional procedures to assist with diagnosis and treatment of pain, and emphasizes exercise and rehabilitation for both athletes and non-athletes looking to restore or improve function. His academic and research interests include resident education, spine care pathways and value-based assessment of spine interventions.


Associate Program Directors

Rachael Rzasa Lynn, MD​​

Dr. Rzasa Lynn is Board Certified in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.  She completed a fellowship in Pain Medicine with the University of Colorado in 2014.​

Rachel Brakke, MD, Assistant Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Dr. Brakke specializes in the non-operative management of sports and musculoskeletal injuries, as well as back and neck pain including interventional spine procedures and electrodiagnostic testing. Her areas of clinical and research interest include: core strengthening, spine care, the aging athlete, high altitude cerebral edema, musculoskeletal ultrasound, and sports injuries.

As a collegiate level cross-country runner and softball pitcher, she has a strong personal and academic interest in sports.

Physicians (in addition to Directors)

Venu Akuthota, MD

Dr. Akuthota serves as the medical director of the Spine Center at University of Colorado Hospital and is responsible for the Runners' Clinic at the University Sports Medicine Center. He is board-certified in electrodiagnostic medicine, pain medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Dr. Akuthota's clinical interests include prevention and management of the neck, lower back pain, and running injuries.

Marshall Emig, MD

Mara Isser Sax, DO

Mara Isser Sax is a board-certified physiatrist who is fellowship-trained in spine medicine. She is an avid runner and enjoys the outdoors. She is passionate about taking care of patients with spine disorders and helping to restore their function and return to activity.

Her clinical expertise includes spinal and peripheral joint injections, nerve ablations, Botox injections, and electromyography.

Scott Laker, MD

Dr. Laker has cared for athletes at all levels of participation, from adolescents to adults, amateurs to professionals. A founding member of the Seattle Sports Concussion Program, he is a regular lecturer on sports-related concussion, spinal conditions, and sports medicine topics.

Trained in the use spinal injections, peripheral joint injection therapy, and EMG/NCS, Dr. Laker treats a large spectrum of non-surgical sports and spine conditions including sports-related concussion, sports injuries, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, herniated discs, and radiculopathy.

Deborah Saint-Phard, MD

Dr. Saint-Phard is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, electrodiagnostic medicine, and pain medicine. As the director of CU Women's Sports Medicine, her clinical interests are providing expert sports and spine care to active and athletic women and girls.

She also conducts research on stress fractures in female athletes. Dr. Saint-Phard is also a former elite athlete. She was co-captain of the Princeton University track and field team. She competed in the shot put at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, Italy and in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. She was ranked top 20 in the world.

Dominique Schiffer, MD

Dr. Schiffer is Board Certified in both Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. She is a retired Army Medical Officer and she spent 5 years managing the acute and chronic pain of our US Military’s Wounded Warriors prior to her retirement from the Army. Dr. Schiffer brings an integrative approach to managing chronic pain, using traditional interventional pain relieving procedures as well as a healthy patient centered approach encouraging mind and body techniques to relieve chronic pain.

Naryana Varhabhatla, MD​

Dr. Varhabhatla is Board Certified in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.  His clinical interests include cancer pain, low back and neck pain, failed back surgery, headache management, and neuropathy.