Our Team

The Sanford Sports Science Institute focuses on new research to address training, competition and rehabilitation challenges for youth, intercollegiate, professional and recreational athletes.

Verle Valentine, MD, FACSM

Co-Medical Director

Dr. Valentine is the Co-Medical Director for the Sanford Sports Science Institute and Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota. Dr. Valentine has a profound interest in health, wellness, and injury prevention. His extensive background is supported by his teaching, research, publications, and ongoing medical practice. He also serves as the Director of the Sports Concussion Program at Sanford Health, and the Assistant Medical Director for the Sanford Sports Medicine Outreach programs. His training includes a residency in Family Medicine and fellowship in Sports Medicine, as well as a master's degree in Exercise Physiology. Dr. Valentine has a special interest in child and adolescent athletic injuries, running injuries, and sports-related concussions. He is also an expert in the treatment of athletic and activity-type injuries. He has served as a team physician in many capacities including the WNBA, NBA, LPGA, and multiple DI universities. Currently, Dr. Valentine is a team physician for South Dakota State University, Sioux Falls Skyforce and Brandon Valley High School. He also maintains a clinical practice as a Sports Medicine Physician with Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. Learn about Dr. Valentine here.

Ben Noonan, MD

Co-Medical Director

Dr. Noonan is the Co-Medical Director for the Sanford Sports Science Institute and an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine with an extensive background in biomechanics and human performance. His focus areas in orthopedic surgery include arthroscopic and open hip, knee and shoulder surgery. Dr. Noonan's training includes a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from North Dakota State University and a master's degree in exercise science and biomechanics from St Cloud State University where he served as the strength and conditioning coach for the men's hockey team. He obtained his MD and completed a residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Yale University and went on to complete a fellowship in sports medicine and shoulder surgery at the University of Michigan where he was a member of the football medical staff. Dr. Noonan has a special passion for ice hockey which was fostered during his youth hockey coaching experience in his hometown of Moorhead, MN. He has published scientific and clinical articles related to ice hockey metabolism and thermoregulation, and he is currently working on several performance and biomechanical projects related to hockey. Dr. Noonan serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and is a certified member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS), as well as a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. He currently serves as the team physician for the Moorhead High football and hockey teams, as well as the Fargo Force.

Thayne Munce, PhD

Associate Director

Dr. Munce is an Associate Director (Environmental/Applied Physiology) of the Sanford Sports Science Institute and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Sanford School of Medicine of The University of South Dakota. He also has an appointment as a Secondary Assistant Scientist in Sanford Children's Health Research Center. Dr. Munce is currently a member of the ACSM Strategic Health Initiative–Youth Sports and Health Committee. He has conducted numerous research studies in the areas of human thermoregulation and applied exercise physiology. Additionally, Dr. Munce has practical experience in athletic health and performance as a former collegiate athlete and sports performance coach, working primarily with adolescents and young adults. Dr. Munce has a particular interest in translating the most current, evidence-based knowledge into practical applications on the playing field and in the clinic through research, education and delivery of sports medicine services. Learn about Dr. Munce here

Jason C. Dorman, MS, CSCS

Operations Manager

Jason is the Operations Manager for the Sanford Sports Science Institute. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology from South Dakota State University (SDSU) and his master's degree in kinesiology with a primary emphasis in exercise physiology and secondary emphasis in biomechanics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). During his time at UWM, Jason worked as a research assistant in the Human Performance Laboratory, primarily conducting research and performing exercise tests on collegiate and Olympic level athletes. Jason completed a sport science internship at the US Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY and also a one-year work experience position (Post-Graduate Scholar) in the exercise physiology department at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, Australia. Jason has tested and advised myriad high school, collegiate and professional athletes in numerous sports, including gold medal and world record-breaking Olympic athletes. Jason is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is currently a member of the SDSU athletes's performance safeguards task force.

Melissa A. Moyer PT, DPT, ATC

Clinical Biomechanist

Melissa is the Clinical Biomechanist for the Sanford Sports Science Institute in Sioux Falls, SD and the Lead Physical Therapist specializing in sports rehabilitation located at the Sanford Fieldhouse. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training from South Dakota State University, followed by earning her Doctor of Physical Therapy at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA. During her time at St. Ambrose University, Melissa extended her clinical and practical expertise in athletic training as the Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Football and Women’s Volleyball teams. Melissa then completed an orthopedic residency program affiliated with St. Ambrose University and Rock Valley Physical Therapy where she was closely and expertly mentored by several accomplished Fellows of Manual Physical Therapy.

Melissa enjoys sharing her professional expertise as a speaker and through mentoring students of sports medicine and related fields. She also plays key roles in clinically relevant research and oversees and performs healthy athlete movement assessments with high school, college and professional athletes. Melissa specializes in the evaluation and treatment of running-related injuries and the safe return of athletes to sports following ACL reconstruction. Melissa also enjoys being active, running and spending time with her family.

Elizabeth Kuckuk, MS


Elizabeth Kuckuk is the Nutritionist for the Sanford Sports Science Institute in Sioux Falls, SD. She holds a BA in Russian and a BS in Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Following her undergraduate studies, she gained experience in the field of nutrition through completing her dietetic internship and MS in Nutrition with an emphasis in Physical Performance at Saint Louis University. While at Saint Louis University, she conducted a graduate research study on endurance athletes and her coursework focused on nutrition, health promotion, disease prevention, physiology and cardiovascular fitness. Elizabeth enjoys helping athletes of all ages and abilities take a real foods approach to improving overall health and achieve optimal athletic performance. Elizabeth is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Sports Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) dietetics practice group, and the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA).

Emily Willaert, MS

Clinical Biomechanist

Emily is the Clinical Biomechanist for the Sanford Sports Science Institute in Fargo, ND. Her training includes a bachelor's degree in psychology from the College of Saint Benedict and a master's degree in biomechanics and exercise science from St. Cloud State University where she served as a research assistant in the Human Performance Laboratory. Emily interned at Gillette Children's Hospital in the Gait and Motion Analysis Laboratory; served as an adjunct professorship at the College of St. Benedict in the Exercise Science and Sport Science Department; and has been coaching soccer for the Minnesota Olympic Development Program since 2009. Emily is an integral member of our Running Performance Clinic team, working with our sport rehabilitation therapists to perform sophisticated biomechanical evaluations of healthy and injured runners, as well as with our strength and conditioning specialists to perform athletic technique and injury risk assessments on all athletes. Emily also works with the entire Sanford Sports Science Institute team on a variety of ongoing research projects.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us at (605) 312-7870.