The Founding of AAI Summer Courses in Immunology

by John S. Emrich
December 2014, page 33

By the early 1960s, the pace of advances in the field of immunology presented great challenges for researchers to keep abreast of the breakthroughs in the field. Few universities or medical schools offered courses in immunology, and even at those institutions offering courses, other faculty generally found them inaccessible, given their own teaching schedules. Moving to address the challenge, the 1964–65 AAI Council resolved “to provide a brief intensive advanced course in Immunology for University Staff to encourage high standards of research and teaching in Immunology.” Two years in the planning, the first course succeeded in setting the standard for short-course immunology education, a standard that remains intact to this day.

The first AAI Summer Course in Immunology commenced on Monday, July 25, 1966, at Lake Forest College, a small liberal arts college 30 miles north of Chicago on the banks of Lake Michigan. Over the next 13 days, 57 attendees listened to lectures by 18 eminent immunologists covering 12 “basic immunology” topics.

The co-directors, Dan H. Campbell (AAI ’38, president 1972–73) and Sheldon Dray (AAI ’59, secretary-treasurer 1964–70), organized the course into the still-familiar format: selected topics taught by specialists in each field. The faculty for the first course included Frank J. Dixon (AAI ’50, president 1971–72), Justine S. Garvey (AAI ’56), Elvin A. Kabat (AAI ’43, president 1965–66), David W. Talmage (AAI ’54, president 1978–79), and Byron H. Waksman (AAI ’50, president 1970–71). Most days featured a morning and afternoon session, each dedicated to a particular topic, although organizers scheduled a few days with only one session to enable students to continue discussions with senior investigators “in an informal workshop type environment.” The following topics were covered at the first course:

Antibodies: nature, structure, synthesis; Antigen-antibody reactions; Antigens; Cellular aspects of immunologic responsiveness and unresponsiveness; Complement; Hypersensitivity; Immunogenetics; Immunological methods; Immunology of infections; Immunopathology and autoimmune phenomena; Transplantation Immunology; and Tumor immunology

Although founded primarily for university instructors and investigators with M.D.s and Ph.D.s who did not have access to immunological training, the AAI Summer Courses in Immunology have evolved over the subsequent 48 years to address the needs of the broader immunology enterprise. Attendees today hail from the United States and abroad and from industry as well as academia. Students new to the discipline or those seeking more information to complement general biology or science training attend the AAI Introductory Course in Immunology. The Advanced Course is directed toward advanced trainees and scientists who wish to expand or update their understanding of the field. Both courses offer intensive six-day instruction by world-renowned immunologists.

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