The AANEM’s Earnest Johnson Outstanding Educator Award recognizes members for their significant contributions related to NM and EDX medicine education. Due to his decades-long commitment to education, David R. Del Toro, MD, has been awarded for the 2022 Earnest Johnson Outstanding Educator Award.
“Although my undergraduate degree is in mechanical engineering, I was always fascinated by the human body and how it works. After working as an automotive engineering intern for two summers at Buick Motor Division in Flint, MI, I realized that I did not have the passion for a career as a mechanical engineer (or automotive engineer), he said. “I completed a course in human physiology early in my senior year of college and absolutely loved it. This human physiology course, various discussions with my professors and other engineering students going to medical school, as well as exploring my desire to help people solidified my interest in pursuing a degree in medicine.”
Del Toro graduated medical school at the Indiana University School of Medicine, then completed a PM&R residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals.
“I like the combination of MSK medicine and NM medicine that PM&R had to offer. I also like the patient populations that PM&R physicians provide treatment and management (e.g. patients with limb loss, polytrauma, and peripheral nerve injuries). I also thoroughly enjoy the fact that in PM&R we have the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with some of our patients.”
Del Toro’s faculty academic appointments date back to 1991 in the department of PM&R at the Medical
College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. He was appointed as a PM&R instructor through 1994, assistant professor through June 2000, associate professor through 2012, and currently serves as the professor of the department of PM&R at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
Del Toro has received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the Robert Boyle Teacher of the Year award in 2018, and again in 2020. Del Toro said this award is one of the career accomplishments of which he is most proud. “The Robert Boyle Teacher of the Year award is voted on by senior PM&R residents in our department. This award is particularly gratifying since it’s terrific to observe our residents being such avid learners of EDX and NM medicine and that I was chosen for this award among so many outstanding physician- teachers in our department.”
One of Del Toro’s greatest mentors was Ernie Johnson, MD, for whom this award is named. “After hearing him speak I remember the phrase ‘don’t over read the EMG’ - meaning remember to focus on the patient and their clinical presentation, and don’t overemphasize the EDX findings over the clinical presentation. Both components (clinical & EDX findings) need to fit together to yield the clinical diagnosis,” said Del Toro.
The most valuable lesson he’s learned as an educator is “that I have to keep learning, can’t stay stagnant, and must always listen to the learners and understand their questions. Also, to be sincere and genuine in my teaching.” Del Toro strives to achieve an interactive approach to teaching students, residents, and fellows and tries to get everyone engaged in group teaching sessions.
Del Toro has been a member of the AANEM since 1992. Some of his favorite memories of the association come from our annual meetings. He called one night, at the AANEM Annual Meeting in Quebec, when he was at a bar with Mike Andary, MD, and several other AANEM members discussing foot EMG and NCS techniques. “Mike asked me to demonstrate some of these techniques on his foot in the bar, so I proceeded to draw on his foot (as he sat on a bar stool) and the bar became a mini-EMG lab.”
At another AANEM Annual Meeting, one of Del Toro’s colleagues told him that he was noticing ongoing symptoms of numbness and tingling in one of his feet, and he asked for Del Toro’s opinion. “We ended up going to the exhibit hall where I borrowed an EMG machine and performed a mini EDX study on his foot and diagnosed tibial mononeuropathy in the foot.”
Del Toro has presented at the AANEM Annual Meetings more than 40 times. “I most enjoy the interaction between the workshop participants and myself, the questions that arise from them, and the discussions that develop as a result of these interactions.”
Hs is looking forward to meeting up with colleagues whom he hasn’t seen in over 2 years at the upcoming AANEM Annual Meeting and celebrating with family who will be visiting Nashville at the same time.
“I want to thank so many people that have been integral in my success as an educator,” said Del Toro. “This includes my family, for their support throughout my career; multiple colleagues and staff at the Medical College of Wisconsin & Department of PM&R; all of the AANEM staff; certainly various patients that have taught me so much about medicine and human nature; as well as all the learners (students, residents, fellows, etc.) that I have had the opportunity to teach and interact with.”
He also thanks some of his early mentors, including Drs. Wertsch, Park, and Gnatz. “They were certainly instrumental in helping me to understand EDX medicine and clinical neurophysiology, which fueled my interest and passion for this field of subspecialty medicine and introduced the idea of becoming a teacher in EDX medicine.”