In 1988, the AACR recognized the importance of cultivating the next generation of cancer researchers by establishing the associate member category of membership. The board of directors later sought to further initiate an ongoing dialogue between associate members and the AACR leadership to ensure that the current and future professional needs of early-career scientists would be met. Thus, the Associate Member Council was established by AACR President Dr. Lee W. Wattenberg in 1993 to serve as a link between the board and associate members, and to contribute to the development of AACR programs in a substantive way.
Over the ensuing three years, the AACR sought nominations for positions on the newly formed council and worked to develop a mission and goals. In 1996, the first council took office, and was led by Co-chairpersons, Dr. John Alton Copland of the University of Texas Medical Branch and Dr. Christopher P. Evans of the University of California, Davis. Dr. Copland's leadership was instrumental in the council receiving the support of its charter sponsor, Aflac Incorporated of Columbus, Georgia. Today, Aflac Inc. continues to lend its generous support to the AACR associate membership through AACR-Aflac Scholar Travel Awards.