David R. Cornblath, MD, Receives AANEM’s 2023 Distinguished Researcher Award

Published August 02, 2023

David R. Cornblath, MD, has been awarded AANEM’s 2023 Distinguished Researcher Award for his contributions to the study of peripheral neuropathies and his extensive research in the fields of NM and EDX medicine. This award honors AANEM members who have made a significant impact on clinical neurophysiological, NM medicine, or MSK research.

Dr. Cornblath received his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University, and continued his training with an internship at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, followed by a neurology residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. His passion for NM medicine led him to become a Clinical Fellow of the Muscular Dystrophy Association at the Peripheral Nerve Morphology Laboratory. Later, he joined the neurology faculty at Johns Hopkins, where he served as director of the Neurology EMG Laboratory. Currently retired, he holds the title of professor emeritus of neurology at Johns Hopkins.

Throughout his career, Dr. Cornblath has made significant contributions to the fields of NM and EDX medicine. He co-authored the book Diagnosis and Management of Peripheral Nerve Disorders and has written over 200 articles and chapters on various NM diseases, including GBS, CIDP, ALS, NM diseases associated with HIV infection, diabetic neuropathy, and painful neuropathies. He also served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Peripheral Nervous System.

Dr. Cornblath’s research efforts have garnered recognition and honors throughout his career, including his appointment as Honorary Professor of Neurology at Hebei Medical College and the Second Teaching Hospital of Hebei Medical College in Shijiazhuang, People’s Republic of China. Even in retirement, Dr. Cornblath continues to consult, serving on safety monitoring boards and clinical trial development programs.

One of Dr. Cornblath’s most notable endeavors was the development of criteria for the diagnosis of GBS in collaboration with Dr. Arthur Asbury. Their paper, Assessment of Current Diagnostic Criteria for Guillain-Barré Syndrome, has been widely cited and served as the basis for clinical trials and studies in this field. Furthermore, Dr. Cornblath was part of the team conducting research in China that led to novel discoveries about GBS, revealing the existence of multiple variants or forms of the disease and inspiring further investigation into its pathogenesis.

Dr. Cornblath is also the co-inventor, alongside Vinay Chaudhry, MD, of the Total Neuropathy Score© (TNS), a validated measure of peripheral nerve function. The TNS© was developed during their collaborative work on chemotherapy induced polyneuropathy, and its application has significantly contributed to the assessment of neuropathy in clinical settings. When contemplating the future of NM research, Dr. Cornblath expressed optimism about the role of genetics. He emphasized the ongoing discoveries of the genetic basis of numerous NM diseases and the potential for targeted treatments. Dr. Cornblath believes that identifying new genes, establishing outcome measures, and fostering collaborations with pharmaceutical companies and biotechs are crucial steps toward advancing NM research.

Dr. Cornblath’s impressive career path was shaped by countless colleagues. He said, “I’ve had mentors in every place, and all these people just nudge you in a little tiny way,” underscoring the cumulative effect of the relationships he forged along the way. He also emphasized the importance of finding the right environment and mentors, advising early-career professionals to “get yourself in a place where the place is right and the place is intellectually curious and there’s opportunities and you have a couple of good mentors or one good mentor, but preferably a few.” He encouraged early-career professionals to attend small society meetings, such as those organized by AANEM, where they can make meaningful connections. He said, “at a small meeting, you can do things that you just can’t do at a big meeting,” and praised the AANEM meetings for providing opportunities to meet experts and engage in valuable discussions.

Dr. Cornblath’s long-standing affiliation with AANEM dates back to 1982. He has served on the Awards Recipient Task Force, Muscle & Nerve Editorial Board, Journal Committee, and Program Committee. “I think AANEM was probably the first professional organization I joined, and probably one of the only ones from back then that I still have anything to do with... AANEM has stayed true to their small nature and their values,” he reflected.

Receiving the Distinguished Researcher Award from AANEM came as a surprise to Dr. Cornblath, who expressed deep gratitude and honor. “I was quite surprised. When I looked at the list of the past people, it was a very nice group to join. It’s a lovely honor and a privilege to be considered in that class,” he said. This prestigious award serves as a testament to Dr. Cornblath’s exceptional research endeavors, dedication to the field of NM medicine, and profound impact on patient care.