AANEM’s Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed by the AANEM. It is given to members who are recognized as major contributors in the fields of NM and EDX medicine through their efforts in teaching, research, and scholarly publications. Due to his lifelong dedication to patient care, PM&R research, clinical and scientific education, and the AANEM, Daniel Dumitru, MD, PhD, has been awarded the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.
For more than 4 decades, Dumitru has provided direct care for patients on a daily basis, a responsibility he considers “an absolute privilege.”
“I had always wanted to be a doctor. It was amazing to me that whenever I became seriously ill, a doctor would see me and help me get better. My hope was to be able to also do that for others,” said Dumitru.
He knew PM&R was the path for him during his sophomore year of medical school. He remembers the day Randy Braddom, MD, demonstrated different gait abnormalities as well as an EMG to his class. “The combination of a specialty able to deal with patients who had not only MSK and peripheral nerve disorders from a diagnostic standpoint, but also implement therapeutic strategies totally captivated me.”
In 1980, Dumitru graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He went on to complete a residency in PM&R at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and earn a doctor of philosophy from the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Dumitru has held numerous administrative positions at the University of Texas Health Science Center, including deputy chairman, director of the residency program, director of the EDX medicine clinic, and professor in the departments of occupational therapy and physiology. He currently serves as a professor emeritus in the department of rehabilitation after retiring from full-time practice in 2020 after 40 years.
Throughout his career, Dumitru’s major focus for research was clinical neurophysiology with an emphasis in volume conductor theory. He says one of his greatest accomplishments was developing a clinical quantitative model regarding single muscle fiber volume conductor theory with his PhD advisor, Dick F. Stegeman, PhD. “Through this research, I helped to expand the accessibility of volume conductor theory for both near-field and far-field generator sources through a qualitative model, known as the leading/trailing dipole model, developed in conjunction with Dr. Don Jewett” he said.
Dumitru has written numerous publications in textbooks and significant peer-reviewed journals, and created his own comprehensive textbooks, EDX Medicine, 1st and 2nd editions
The idea to create a textbook was planted early on in his career. “When I was a resident, I devoured the textbooks available then by Drs. Joseph Goodgold, Jun Kimura, and Ernie Johnson.” Still, he was left wanting more. “I wanted to know more about the why of it all. I figured the more I understood the less I had to memorize.”
Dumitru spent 5 years reading and writing as many clinical and basic science journals relating to clinical neurophysiology as he could. “My garage was filled with thousands of copied, highlighted, and commented-on journal articles,” he said. “I became not only exhausted, but apparently immunocompromised in some fashion and came down with Guillain-Barré - a heavy price to pay.”
Reflecting on his experience, he said, “I was pleased with the textbook as being the book I wanted to have as a resident. I can only hope it served that purpose.” Dumitru’s EDX Medicine is now widely used in training programs across the world.
Still, he hasn’t forgotten the criticism he faced at the start of this endeavor. “I’ll never forget talking to quite a few luminaries in EDX medicine at the time, and all but one person said pretty much the same thing over and over in one form or another: ‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘What makes you think you have anything to contribute in this field?’ ‘Why would anyone want to read anything you would write?’”
His best advice for early-career physicians and researchers is “to never let anyone ever try to tell you that you can’t do something worthwhile or make a significant contribution even if no one knows who you are. Yes you can! Even the most well-known person had to start as an unknown.”
Dumitru’s guidance has been invaluable to the AANEM. Since joining as a member in 1984, he has served on dozens of committees, as well as Secretary/Treasurer (1996-1999) and President of the AANEM Board (2000-2001).
Some of Dumitru’s favorite memories over the years include the many meaningful connections he’s made through AANEM. “I still remember meeting Drs. Ernie Johnson, Jun Kimura, and Erik Stålberg, during a course I participated in for the first time. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Wow, what am I even doing on this platform with these icons?’”
“It has been an honor and privilege to get to know so many smart and interesting people through the AANEM. I consider myself blessed to have been a tiny part of a much larger community interested in EDX medicine.”