Newswise — The AANEM Awards Committee is pleased to announce Shirlyn A. Adkins, JD, as the recipient of the 2018 AANEM Distinguished Service Award based on her past, current, and future contributions to the missions of AANEM and the AANEM Foundation.

Adkins was hired at AANEM in 1993 as the administrative services manager and began serving as executive director in 1995, a position she still holds today.

Adkins says she’s seen quite a bit of change at AANEM over the past 25 years. 

“When I first started, we only had one pharmaceutical company that exhibited at our annual meeting and everything else was EMG machines and supplies. The exhibit hall is very different today. The Foundation has become much more relevant in the last 5 years with all the changes we have made and I’m excited to watch it grow to the next level,” she said. “The technology changes, of course, have been huge. When I first started, we didn’t have a website, there was no social media, and I had to communicate with the Board and membership via the fax machine!”

Adkins has helped AANEM grow and evolve through a number of achievements over the past 2 decades. Some of these include:

  • Maintaining the AANEM as a member responsive, efficient, financially sound, organization
  • Assisting the Board with strategic planning to expand the scope of the organization beyond electrodiagnostic medicine
  • Growing the AANEM and AANEM Foundation’s combined assets from about $1M to $13M
  • Creating the AANEM Foundation and building a partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) to continue supporting scientific research on neuromuscular diseases
  • Helping to provide education to thousands of physicians through the AANEM annual meeting
  • Mentoring physician members and staff members in policy development and helping to hire AANEM’s first Washington, DC lobbyist
  • Establishing the ABEM Maintenance of Certification Program and the CNCT examination
  • Overseeing the creation of the EDX Laboratory Accreditation program
  • Establishing a website and continuously overseeing updates
  • Purchasing data management systems that centralized membership and meeting information, education product sales, dues, and other core data essential to the organization

Of all the projects and initiatives Adkins has spearheaded over the years, she is most proud of adding advocacy to the AANEM.

“When I started, AANEM was not involved in advocacy. But it was important for us to add this vital piece to our organization. As part of our mission, we need to advocate on behalf of patients,” she said.

She is also proud to have been a part of the process to expand AANEM’s scope.

“Our sessions and educational materials are much broader today than they were 25 years ago. It’s been fun to watch this organization grow and become more patient-focused and not just focused on electrodiagnostic medicine.”

Adkins says that when she looks ahead to the future of AANEM, she is most excited about seeing growth in the AANEM Foundation.

“I think we can make more of a difference to patients by funding more research. It is exciting to see new treatments being developed for patients with neuromuscular disease,” she noted. 

Adkins says there’s a lot to like about her job … perhaps that is why her career at AANEM has been so longstanding.

“There is always a new challenge ahead of me and I am constantly looking for the next great thing to move the organization forward. I enjoy the people I work with – the staff and the members. I have made lots of friends over the years through my work at AANEM. I also enjoy the freedom I have had to be able to try new things. The Board has always been supportive which has made my job easy,” she said. 

“Shirlyn is indefatigable in her work for the organization. What is truly unique is that she is constantly catalyzing the reinvention of the AANEM ― embracing and shaping the future of the AANEM even before it happens. It is no accident that we are such a great organization,” said Timothy R. Dillingham, MD, MS, and Chair of the AANEM Awards Committee. “Under her leadership, the AANEM is recognized as an organization based on consensus, sound policies, science, and transparency. We have rapidly adapted to change and capitalized on unique opportunities as they occurred. Her interpersonal skills and leadership abilities are superlative and she puts them to good use in managing this organization. Shirlyn is eminently qualified to receive this most prestigious award.”   

Adkins earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from UW-Madison in 1987 and a Juris Doctor degree in 1990 from the University of Minnesota. She practiced law for 3 years before beginning her career at AANEM.


Based in Rochester, Minnesota, the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) is the premier nonprofit membership association dedicated to the advancement of neuromuscular (NM), musculoskeletal and electrodiagnostic (EDX) medicine. The organization and its members work to improve the quality of patient care and advance the science of NM diseases and EDX medicine by serving physicians and allied health professionals who care for those with muscle and nerve disorders.

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