On a snowy day in 1975, Allan Rechtschaffen came into the conference room at the University of Chicago Sleep Research Laboratory and told me I should join a group called the Association for the Psychophysiological Study of Sleep. He said there was an annual meeting and some other stuff that would make it worth my while. The other graduate students started to chant, “Do it! Do it!” and so, succumbing to peer pressure, I joined my first professional society. (Author’s note: I’m not sure it really happened that way. It was a long time ago. My memory for what I just had for breakfast is hazy, so you can imagine what is left of my 1975 memories. But something like that did happen. I think.) I’ve been a member ever since.
As a result of signing up, I got a journal, some newsletters, participation in the annual meeting and a sense of community. Most importantly, I was able to connect with people who wrote papers that impressed me. I was able to ask questions. I was part of a group that eventually considered me a peer. Recently, I was asked to renew my membership, and I have to confess that I was on the fence for a time. But that hazy memory of Bernie Bergmann, Charmane Eastman, Don Bliwise and Kris Hartse chanting “Do it! Do it!” came back to me, and I decided to renew. (Author’s note: In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen.) It was the community and the historical thread that brought me back for another year.
Some of you may point out the hypocrisy in a PhD member of the AASM, a society composed primarily of MDs, encouraging sleep technologists and RPSGTs to join or renew membership in the AAST. Guilty as charged. But I have worked with AAST in a variety of roles including society coordinator, educational consultant and course speaker. I know the people involved. There is, at its core, a sense of community. You may not agree with all that AAST has done or endorsed, but no community is without that. If you find yourself yelling at a blog post or arguing with a position statement, join up and work to change things. As a member, your voice will be heard.
And you do get lots of stuff when you become an AAST member. I’ve been a part of the Case of the Month and Journal Club production team — these are pretty darn good educational products, if I say so myself. They are free with membership. Other learning modules are coming in the near future. The society holds an annual meeting that includes nationally recognized experts and provides an opportunity to engage in an exchange of ideas. Even if you do not take advantage of the educational products or the annual meeting, you will enjoy the sense of community that membership brings.