A lot of scientists try to explain immunology. In the postcoronavirus era, a lot of nonscientists also try to explain immunology. As an immunologist, it’s always important to support these efforts and foster dissemination of accurate immunology information to the best of our abilities. Whenever someone says, “I’m not an immunologist,” I always reply, “That’s okay. No one is perfect.”

I’ve had a long relationship with AAI. When I was a graduate student, going to the annual meeting was practically part of the curriculum. When I became faculty, one of the first things I did, after the panic subsided, was join AAI. Back in the old days, like the late 1900s, members would get an actual membership card (Fig. 1). It was really useful in the days when people had wallets and you could pull it out and play the immunology card when someone needed an immunologist. You could hold the card and feel the immunology dripping off it. Depending on how you liberated the card from the paper it was attached to, you could get a paper cut and actually release some of the immunology in your own body. It was a powerful card. You could hold it up in any situation and say, “Don’t panic. I’m an immunologist!” It should still be what’s in your wallet.

I’m not sure when the practice of providing cards stopped, but it at least lasted through 2011, as you can see from Fig. 1. That might have been the end, because I am a bit of a pack rat, and that’s the most recent card I could find. When there was discussion of membership at a recent AAI meeting, someone estimated that only about one-third of immunologists are AAI members. I thought, “Wow. Why not join?” I’ve always been partial to the Marx philosophy that I would never want to be a member of a group that would have someone like me as a member. Closely related is the Mark philosophy of not wanting to be a member of a group that would have someone like you as a member. (One of my colleagues recently told a guest that I was only playing at being the curmudgeonly misanthrope, and I’m doing my best to prove him wrong.) But when you become faculty, you want to join something, and the initial alphabetic choices for me were either AAI or the Audubon Society. And honestly, working with chickens during my PhD traumatized me enough that supporting birds any more than I had to just wouldn’t fly.

FIGURE 1.

Membership card of random old AAI member. Slight yellowing indicates age.

FIGURE 1.

Membership card of random old AAI member. Slight yellowing indicates age.

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It also amazes me that immunologists, and sometimes even members, aren’t aware of all of the benefits of AAI membership. Sure, there’s award eligibility and discounted registration for the meeting, but membership also supports public advocacy and public education. Perhaps because it is an association of, by, and for immunologists, AAI supports the immunology society where we work and discover. You might say that being an immunologist carries some responsibility, and being a (virtual) card-carrying AAI member gives you a measure of power to change the future of our field and maybe even the world.

Of course, as Spider-Man taught us, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That is true of many positions, although admittedly not Editor-in-Chief of ImmunoHorizons, where little actual power comes with great responsibility. Still, there are the editorials where I can influence at least … let’s say 10 people who are not employed by AAI. If you’re reading this, you might be one. I am thinking of having a contest where I write in an upcoming editorial that anyone who reads the article should meet me in the lobby of the conference center, and I’ll take them for a coffee. It would be an interesting experiment.

Anyway … membership. You really should join. It gets you benefits like those above and also qualifies you for awards, association positions, and for the double-secret after-party where you need to show your (virtual) membership card for access. It’s also required for the coffee offer mentioned above. AAI membership: Don’t leave the laboratory without it.

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