Newswise — AANEM is pleased to honor Ted M. Burns, MD, as the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Researcher Award. Each year, this award is given to an AANEM member who has made significant research contributions in clinical neurophysiology and neuromuscular disease.
Clinical research – particularly research in the assessment and treatment of myasthenia gravis (MG) – has been a central part of Dr. Burns’ career. This focus led Dr. Burns to develop the MG Composite and MG Quality of Life scales which are recognized worldwide as the standard end-points for ongoing clinical trials.
“It bugged me a little that we had outcome measures that told us the myasthenia drug worked in a large clinical trial setting; however, many of these trial outcome measures were challenging to use in clinic settings, especially on an individual patient level,” said Dr. Burns. “One thing led to another, including a wonderful collaboration with Dr. Don Sanders, Mark Conaway, and many others, and we created outcome measures that I think are pretty useful in clinic. I especially like having an efficient, easy-to-use tool for estimating and understanding the quality of life of the MG patient … one that can parse out the different aspects of the patient’s struggle. It’s personally rewarding to know that others also find the outcome measures we created useful.”
“Dr. Burns has been a leader in developing tools for research in patients with MG. The MG Composite and MG Quality of Life scales have been adopted in multiple clinical trials as easy and effective measurement tools,” noted Lawrence H. Phillips, MD, member of the AANEM Awards Committee. “His work in this area is world-renowned. It has also inspired the development of similar instruments for evaluating patients with peripheral neuropathies and myopathies.”
Indeed, the development of the MG scales led to a similar effort for chronic acquired polyneuropathy, resulting in the creation of a disease-specific quality of life measure (CAPPRI) for these patients.
“I’ve also been a patient, battling cancer on and off for 5-plus years now,” explained Dr. Burns. “In fact, I developed chemo neuropathy back in 2013, so it’s been rewarding that I have also found the CAPPRI as an efficient way for me to convey my personal experience with chemo neuropathy. I really think these scales can be useful in conveying the patient struggle in an efficient, standardized way, and this can help clinicians better understand the true clinical status of the patient.”
Dr. Burns has been a member of AANEM for his entire career. One of the things he is most known for as a leader within AANEM is his innovative work in developing podcasts for the association. He created the AANEM podcast series in August 2006.
“At the time, I don’t think anyone was doing podcasting for medical education, so it was a way-out-there idea in early 2006. Remember iPhones didn’t yet exist. But it was too good of an idea to ignore and I could not get it out of my head, so I reached out to the AANEM,” Dr. Burns recalled. “I simply loved the idea of on-demand audio interviews with authors of recent peer-reviewed publications. It seemed perfect. When AANEM gave me the ‘green light,’ my first thought was, ‘Oh heck! What have I gotten myself into? I’ve never interviewed anyone in my life! This is going to be a disaster!’ But, we figured out what made the most sense, sorted out the technical questions, and started. It took a while for people to listen, but once they did and realized the value of it, it really caught on.”
Over the years, podcasts have become a vastly popular part of AANEM’s educational efforts. By 2015, Dr. Burns had produced more than 100 podcasts on various neuromuscular topics. He conducted more than 80% of the podcast interviews and served as chair of the AANEM Podcast Editorial Board. In 2007, he created the Neurology podcast series. Each podcast in this series has been downloaded thousands of times.
Dr. Burns grew up in a Kansas City suburb. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree; then, he completed a neurology residency as well as a clinical neurophysiology fellowship at the University of Virginia (UVA). Following that, Dr. Burns completed a fellowship in peripheral nerve disease at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He was a Senior Staff Neurologist at the Lahey Clinic in Boston and a member of the consulting staff at Boston Children’s Hospital for 2 years before joining the faculty at UVA. Dr. Burns is currently the Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Neurology at UVA. He has served as the director of UVA’s residency and clinical neurophysiology training programs and his educational skills have been recognized at UVA through membership in the Academy of Distinguished Educators, the Dean’s Teaching Award of Excellence, and the Master Educator Award.
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.