Newswise — Dr. James Albers was named winner of the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine’s (AANEM) 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award, for his unparalleled contribution to neuromuscular and electrodiagnostic medicine through efforts in teaching, research, and scholarly publications.
The AANEM is the premier nonprofit membership association dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, education, and technology in the fields of neuromuscular (NM), musculoskeletal (MSK), and electrodiagnostic (EDX) medicine.
“His work exemplifies the fact that one person can make an enormous contribution to a field,” AANEM’s Awards Committee wrote in their recommendation letter for Dr. Albers. “With over 3 decades of NIH, industry, and foundation research funding, Dr. Albers transformed our approach to EDX medicine, increased our understanding of multiple neuromuscular disorders and improved standards of care for neuropathy patients worldwide. He is a giant in the field of clinical neurotoxicology. From his sentinel paper with Jasper Daube in 1978, describing the electrodiagnostic findings in acute porphyric neuropathy to the more than 50 papers he authored on all aspects of toxic neuropathies, his research defined the field of clinical neurotoxicology and culminated with the publication of four books on the subject (written by Dr. Albers).”
He also spearheaded the definition and assessment of diabetic neuropathy in the landmark National Institute of Health Diabetes Control and Complication Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions studies, according to the Awards Committee. As co-chair of the Electrodiagnosis Working Committee for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Dr. Albers “led the consensus statement on standardized measures in diabetic neuropathy in 1992.” His definition has apparently served as the cornerstone for more than 100 clinical trials aimed at understanding the etiology of or developing new therapies for diabetic neuropathy. These original definitions most recently served as the basis for the new 2017 American Disabilities Act position statement on the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
Dr. Albers originally went to school for electrical engineering at his beloved University of Michigan. However a biology elective his senior year changed the course of his life – and, many argue, the field of neurology is better off for it. That biology course didn’t directly lead to a career in neurology, but it did turn Dr. Albers toward a bioengineering degree.
“As a bioengineering student, I worked in the laboratory of Wallace Tourtellotte, a neurologist who was quantifying the neurological examination and evaluating medications used to treat Parkinson disease. It was then that I became interested in neurology; somewhat unusual, as I hadn’t considered attending medical school up to that point,” he said of the moment.
His interest in neurology persisted throughout medical school, leading to a residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He credits fellow AANEM member Dr. Jasper Daube with introducing him to EMG, which again represented a fork in a continuously surprising path for Dr. Albers. At a closer look, however, it all seems to make perfect sense.
“Although EMG had little to do with my initial reasons for selecting neurology as a specialty, for me it was the perfect blend of electrical engineering, bioengineering, and neurophysiology. It was during my EMG training that I became interested in neuromuscular diseases.”
Thus began a 50-year odyssey transforming his field of science. He has published more than 168 original articles, 43 book chapters and four books, not to mention a myriad of abstracts, letters, and educational materials, along with his research significantly advancing neurology and healthcare.
Dr. Albers was also a member of the Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) Study Group that established the efficacy of plasmapheresis in GBS in 1983 and of the American Academy of Neurology Task Force that defined the criteria for the diagnosis of Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) in 1991.
An AANEM member since 1978, Dr. Albers says he appreciates the organization’s focus in recent years to NM diseases.
“AANEM has been the most important national organization in terms of my personal career. It was at the annual meetings that I benefitted from the exceptional education programs, both as an attendee and presenter. With AANEM’s decision to expand the organization’s focus to specifically emphasize NM diseases, I believe that the annual programs made a substantial increase in relevance – something important to AANEM members, their patients, and to me,” he said.
To learn more about the 2019 AANEM Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, or Dr. Albers’s journey in medicine, visit www.aanem.org.
About American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (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.