I believe that when we choose to belong to a professional organization, one of the benefits of membership is the opportunity to become involved and even to lead.
Many allergy/immunology fellows choose their allergy organization(s) early in their careers. This decision can be heavily influenced by training program directors and mentors. As a fellow at Northwestern, I trained under Dr. Roy Patterson, but also had Dr. Richard Evans as a chief at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Dr. Patterson was all about the AAAAI, but Dr. Evans showed me that there were two allergy organizations, and we discussed the advantages to exploring both. He also encouraged me to join the AAP Section on Allergy & Immunology.
As a trainee, I served as FIT Chair for AAAAI, but I also received a travel grant to the ACAAI meeting. As I began my practice at Gundersen Health System, I became more active in both AAP and ACAAI. I realized that the College would be a better fit for me as a community allergist. In my earlier years with the College, I was involved with the Pediatrics Committee, the Abstract Review Committee, the Allied Health Committee and many others – and in some cases worked my way up to chair.
I joined the ACAAI Board of Regents in 2004 to 2007, also serving on the Executive Committee. Right after I rotated off the Board in 2007, my road took an unexpected turn when my daughter Kaitlin died. I stepped away for a few years, but I always continued to feel the support of my College family. After some time passed, I became re-engaged, and my path took me back into numerous committees including the Annual Meeting Program Committee and the Publications Committee. This led me back onto the leadership path and eventually to serving as College president in 2018-19.
I’m telling you this personal history as a way to show that there are a great many ways to be involved in the programs and products of the College. Not only can you contribute at the committee level, which is very rewarding, but also, if you so choose, your work can put you on the path to leadership positions.
Members can apply for positions on committees once each year from March 1 through April 15. You may or may not get on your preferred committee right away, as there are more volunteers than positions each year. But with more than 40 committees representing all areas of interest, the opportunities are fairly plentiful. Committee work and officer positions are excellent opportunities to represent your colleagues, to identify needs of our members, and to infuse the College with fresh ideas and offerings continuously.
We are fortunate that the number of allergists/immunologists in the U.S. is relatively small compared with other medical specialties. This allows the College to serve the vast majority of those practicing in our field, and also provides a close-knit community of volunteers, authors, editors, and others contributing to the advancement of the profession.
I’m looking forward to continuing to be part of the leadership team that keeps the College on point, accessible and valuable to its members. I hope if you’re reading this, that you’ll take advantage of the benefits of volunteering and leading.