AAI President’s Message

Akiko IwasakiStephen Jameson, Ph.D., AAI ’96

Professor and Harry Kay Chair in Biomedical Research, Center for Immunology—University of Minnesota Medical School, Twin Cities

AAI President, 2024–2025

It is my distinct honor to represent you as this year’s president of the American Association of Immunologists. I am excited to contribute to the continued success of AAI and its mission to improve global health and well-being by advancing immunology and elevating public understanding about the immune system. I am especially humbled to follow in the footsteps of Akiko Iwasaki (2023-2024 AAI President), whose leadership and tireless commitment exemplifies the spirit of this important role.

I have been a member of AAI for more than 27 years and have served on the AAI Council for the past five years. In that time, I have gained invaluable insights from you, our members and stakeholders. Over the past year, my colleagues and I on the AAI Council have engaged in numerous strategy sessions, analyzed feedback from our survey completed by over 4,000 individuals, and listened to our committees. Some of what we heard was expected, some was surprising, but all that we learned from you underscored your dedication and commitment to the field and its importance. I am deeply grateful to the entire Council for their dedication and am honored to be part of AAI’s ongoing journey as an organization that amplifies the work of its members more broadly.

I am fortunate to be taking the helm of AAI now, with our new strategic framework already in place to provide the guiding principles by which I can refine and shape my priorities – a framework that was developed by the Council in response to your expressed aspirations and concerns. It is an honor to be entrusted with furthering the big, ambitious goals you have for our association. As president of this vibrant community, I will do my very best to embody and embrace your ambitions, and to steer AAI in the directions we have laid out together as a community. Some of my earliest activities will further the strategic priorities that support the immunology community – primarily through exploring new learning opportunities and shoring up the association’s operational capacity by assessing and making any necessary changes to our governance structure.

Governance Assessment
Those of you who participated in AAI’s Business Meeting on May 5 at IMMUNOLOGY2024™ voted to amend AAI’s bylaws, paving the way for an upcoming review of AAI’s overall governance. I am pleased with the changes, as the bylaws that govern our association are outdated and do not reflect the existing environment or current practices. You voted to update the bylaws to explicitly permit electronic voting – both for elections and for future bylaws revisions. This will help as we set forth later this year to modernize AAI’s governance structure, systems, and processes and to align them with the organization’s newly defined strategic priorities.

Exploration of digital learning
Supporting the next generation of immunology leaders is a critical role of AAI. Throughout AAI’s history, we have done this in numerous ways, including through our two outstanding journals and by providing many opportunities and much support for members to attend our annual meeting. But people consume content in vastly different ways today, which means we need to provide options beyond in-person learning. Over the past year, AAI Committees and Staff have produced robust webinars on topics from ARPA-H funding to AI’s impact on education, reaching a large global audience. While I am excited by this expansion of digital learning, I recognize that there are opportunities beyond traditional webinars. These may be on-demand courses that complement our annual Introductory and Advanced Courses in Immunology, or they may be new digital courses on emerging topics. I want AAI to be a place where the immunology community feels supported with resources and programs that enable continuous growth at every career stage and inspire interest in immunology among the next generation. Growing our digital learning opportunities is essential to achieving this goal.

Computational Immunology Course
In the realm of education and professional development, the analysis of “big data” has become crucial in immunology, with single-cell analysis becoming a standard for many studies. While there are many bioinformatics or computational biology courses offered, their relevance to immunologists varies considerably. There is a clear need for more training and education in this area. I want to thank Mark Davis (AAI president 2022-2023) for outlining a proposal for this course in 2019, which AAI postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have had multiple conversation with AAI leaders in this field, and we plan to reinvigorate this project. Stay tuned for more on this exciting potential opportunity.

Involving Members in the Implementation of our Strategic Framework
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to thank all the incredible volunteers who commit countless hours to guiding and developing the AAI activities that make this organization so impactful. While I have identified some priority areas for my time as president, we rely on AAI members and volunteers to advance many more current and new initiatives.

Last year, we saw the launch of the AAI Volunteer Portal, making it easier for members to express their interest in serving the society in various roles, and many of you have already used the system. I am pleased to announce that new in 2024-2025, many AAI committee rosters include trainees as liaisons to represent the important perspectives of AAI trainee members, something that I am especially interested in developing during my term. The volunteer portal is open year-round, and I encourage all dedicated members to register their interest by submitting an AAI Volunteer Interest Form. You can help shape the future of both AAI and the field of immunology.

Finally, while our strategic framework outlines our vision, mission, goals and objectives, it does not specify how we will advance each goal. For this, we rely on AAI committees to generate ideas and work closely with the AAI staff who have been charged to create an implementation plan that will serve as a step-by-step guide for furthering the strategic objectives. The Council will have general oversight and will monitor progress, but it will be the volunteers on committees and the AAI staff who actively work to advance these priorities.

When I was elected to the AAI Council years ago, I started to think about my presidential year and what I might be able to accomplish. Throughout my time on Council, I have deepened my knowledge of the organization, and my thinking has evolved.  With new leadership at AAI, exciting discussions of our vision for the future of the organization, and fresh energy for implementing these ideas, there is a lot to do that was not even on the horizon when I joined Council. My goal is to keep that momentum going, help us look beyond what AAI represented in the past (while proudly maintaining our legacy), and engage AAI membership in turning these visions into reality.  I’m honored to serve in this position at such an auspicious time and look forward to what we can achieve in the AAI by working together.

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