Monika Krzesniak-Swinarska, MD, Receives AANEM’s 2023 Ernest Johnson Outstanding Educator Award

Published August 02, 2023

Monika Krzesniak-Swinarska, MD, has been awarded AANEM’s 2023 Ernest Johnson Outstanding Educator Award for her unwavering dedication to education in the fields of NM and EDX medicine.

Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska’s passion for education stems from her training and the influence from her mentors. “I am grateful for the opportunity to be trained by such a talented group of both PM&R and neurology physicians. I would like to thank my many AANEM mentors in education who have been role models for me. Their hard work and dedication have made my award possible. They stimulated my interest in teaching EDX and NM medicine, as well as NMUS. Teaching was a key motivation for my entry into academic medicine.”

After graduating from the Medical University of Gdansk, Poland, Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska completed a PM&R residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. It was during her residency that she became captivated by EDX medicine under the guidance of esteemed experts in the field and past AANEM Achievement Award recipients.

“I was drawn to EDX medicine during my PM&R residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin by Drs. Jacqueline Wertsch, David Del Toro, and Paul Barkhaus. During my second year of residency, I encountered an excellent book by Drs. David Preston and Barbara Shapiro on EMG and NM disorders. I was fascinated by clinical and electrophysiologic correlations presented by the authors. My technical understanding of EDX testing was stimulated by educational materials and lectures by Sanjeev D. Nandedkar, PhD,” she said.

Following her PM&R residency, Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska played an instrumental role in developing the Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Course for PM&R residents at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She then briefly pursued a private practice within the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where she realized her desire for further training in NM medicine. Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska pursued a NM medicine fellowship at Wake Forest School of Medicine, training under the guidance of experts including Drs. Francis Walker, James Caress, and Michael Cartwright. Following her fellowship, she joined the neurology department at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine (UNM SOM) in Albuquerque, where she currently serves as associate professor of PM&R, NM medicine, and neurology and holds a secondary appointment in the department of orthopaedics & rehabilitation. She is also director of the Adult MDA Care Center and director of the EMG Laboratory.

Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska previously served as director of the UNM Pediatric MDA Care Center (2017-2021), where she developed an intrathecal Spinraza injection program for pediatric and adult SMA patients in New Mexico. She also provided the first gene replacement therapy with Zolgensma in the state of New Mexico. Three years ago, she developed core EMG/NM rotation for the new UNM/Lovelace Rehabilitation PM&R Residency in New Mexico. Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska was recently awarded the PM&R Golden Apple Award, which is given to PM&R faculty members for their contributions to teaching and related activities within the residency program.

Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska’s contributions extend beyond patient care and education within her institution. She has been invited to teach and present courses and workshops on NMUS at national and international conferences, including meetings in Seoul, Korea; Hong Kong, China; Cambridge, UK; and Campinas, Brazil.

When asked about her key motivations, Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska explained, “First, I believe that the best way to learn is to teach. By teaching, one must learn the core material in great depth and be able to make it relevant to students’ lives in today’s society. My second major motivation for excellent teaching is that I help people learn to improve themselves. Additionally, I believe that a good teacher is one who is not only competent in their field but is also always striving to learn more. In my opinion, educators who recognize that they do not know everything, but who also aim to constantly improve their own knowledge, can better relate to students because they continue to be students themselves.”

Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska has been an active member of AANEM since 2010, and currently participates in the AANEM Education Committee and the ABEM NMUS CAQ Examination Committee. She has previously chaired the Ultrasound Committee and served on several other committees, including the Annual Meeting Coordination Committee and Ultrasound Task Force.

“AANEM is an outstanding organization with international recognition that provides highest quality education in neuromuscular and electrodiagnostic medicine. I participate in the AANEM Annual Meeting every year, as presentations and workshops keep me updated in my practice,” she said.

Reflecting on the most valuable lesson she has learned in her career, Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska emphasized the importance of continuous learning. “I realized that ‘A physician can only diagnose what he knows’. This awareness started me on the path of lifetime learning. Additionally, it is very important for me to treat every patient in a way that I would want to be treated or I would want my family members to be treated.”

For aspiring physicians interested in NM and EDX medicine, Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska shared the words of Sir William Osler: “The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.” She wholeheartedly agrees with her mentor, Dr. Michael Cartwright’s advice to young physicians to “do what you love.” She would like to encourage residents to pursue their passion rather than making career choices solely based on financial aspects.

Looking ahead, Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska hopes to expand her involvement in international education. She said, “I would like to get more involved in international education on NMUS, EDX, and NM medicine, bringing knowledge to the countries with limited resources. I hope for the end of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. When Ukrainians can again live in peace, I would like to support the medical mission of AANEM Member Dr. Oksana Sayko in Ukraine.”

Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska’s expertise, unwavering dedication to patient care, and passion for teaching make her a deserving recipient of the AANEM’s 2023 Ernest Johnson Outstanding Educator Award. Expressing her gratitude, Dr. Krzesniak-Swinarska said, “I am honored to receive the 2023 Ernest Johnson Outstanding Educator Award. I am grateful to AANEM for this recognition and humbled by the award. I admired Dr. Johnson’s leadership in academic PM&R, and I strongly believe in Ernie’s ‘patient-first’ teaching philosophy. This award inspires me to continue my educator work with more passion and enthusiasm.”