Dr. Asa Wilbourn

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

CAIRO, Ill. -- Dr. Asa J. Wilbourn, 68, died Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007.

A staff neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation since 1973, he had been the director of the electromyography laboratory more than 33 years, and is world renowed for his pioneering research on nerve and muscle disorders.

Dr. Wilbourn was born April 13, 1938, and raised in Cairo.

He received a bachelor of arts degree from Westminster College in 1960, and a medical degree from Northwestern University School of Medicine in 1964.

After a one-year internship at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Wilbourn served in the U.S. Air Force, flying missions over Southeast Asia. One of the most decorated flight surgeons in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, he earned two Distinguished Flying Cross awards and an Airman's Medal.

He fondly recalled that the years he spent in service to his country were among the best in his life. Following his time in the military, he completed a neurology residency at Yale University in 1971 and then an electrophysiology fellowship at the Mayo Clinic Foundation in 1972.

During his long tenure at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Wilbourn became an internationally recognized expert in the field of electromyography and neuromuscular diseases, having lectured and presented papers throughout the world.

Throughout his career he published several books and articles and received many accolades for his efforts in teaching and research. In 2006 he received the lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine in Washington, D.C., for his outstanding contributions to the field.

Despite all his achievements, he was a humble and genuine man who was well regarded by his colleagues and students. He also had a great compassion for animals, adopting numerous pets from local shelters, and regularly supported many animal groups in the community.

He is survived by his wife of 19 years, Eileen Wilbourn; two sisters, Dorothy Spomer of Cairo, Naomi Carr of Colorado; and a host of loving family and friends.

A memorial service was held at the Cleveland Clinic.

Visitation will be at 9 a.m. Friday at Barkett Funeral Home in Cairo.

A service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the funeral home, with the Rev. Larry Potts officiating. A military burial will be held at the National Cemetery in Mound City, Ill.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be directed to the Friends of Lakewood, Ohio, Public Library and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

"Farewell, Chief. You were an extraordinary physician, teacher, friend, husband, and colleague. We will miss you dearly and will strive to carry on your legacy and passion for life."