Octavia Cannon, DO, says her mantra is, “I just want to serve.” Two years from now, she’ll serve the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOOG) in its highest leadership position and make history as the organization’s first African-American president.
In this edited interview with Dr. Cannon, a co-owner of Arboretum Obstetrics & Gynecology in Charlotte, North Carolina, and ACOOG’s current vice president, she discusses the importance of diversity in the osteopathic medical profession and how DOs can make an impact by serving in leadership roles.
How did you become involved with ACOOG?
I come from a family that believes in community service, so getting involved with ACOOG was right up my alley. I started as a resident serving on what is now the Postgraduate Evaluation and Standards Committee. I’ve served on almost every ACOOG committee since then, and I’m currently the chair of the Bylaws Committee.
What issues will you focus on when you become ACOOG’s president in 2018?
Since we’ll be close to completing the transition on single GME accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the majority of my tenure will focus on making sure that goes as smoothly as possible.
In addition, I want to raise awareness about DOs and osteopathic medicine. Growing up in Michigan, a mecca of DOs, it’s the only kind of medicine I knew until I began applying for medical school.
During my term, I also plan to show others that there is diversity within ACOOG and the profession. Yes, I’m the first African-American to serve as ACOOG president, but there are many other people like me among our ranks. Ultimately, no matter our color, we all have the same goals: promoting preventive health care and making our nation healthier.
What advice would you give to your fellow DOs and osteopathic medical students interested in pursuing leadership roles?
When I’m at ACOOG meetings, I make a point to go up to the residents and welcome them. These days, I find that we need to make a concerted effort to ask people to get involved. I tell people that anyone can serve. You just need to stand up and say you want to learn and do your part.
In addition, I encourage people to think about getting involved outside of their specialty. Think about starting with AOA opportunities. Teresa Hubka, DO, did that for me when she asked me to serve on what is now the AOA’s Bureau of Emerging Leaders.
Lastly, I let people know that serving in these roles doesn’t take a lot of time. If you can carve out one hour a month to serve on a committee, you can make a big difference.
What can the profession do to encourage more minorities to become DOs?
I do a lot of speaking engagements. I talk with the kids at local schools. I often return to my alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, and I speak to the premed and science students about osteopathic medicine. I love what I do, and I share that with people.