Thursday, July 9, 2015

UAB Women in Medicine:Cheri Canon, M.D., F.A.C.R.

Cheri Canon, M.D., F.A.C.R. completed her undergraduate training at the University of Texas at Austin, followed by medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch. After completing her residency training in Diagnostic Radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she joined the faculty in the abdominal imaging section.
Why did you decide to pursue medicine? 
Unlike so many of my colleagues, I cannot point to a moment when I knew I wanted to become a physician. I do remember wanting to be a veterinarian when I was in second grade. My mom saved an art project where I described being a vetranariun and that I would “make $3 an hour and cook and clean. This still makes me chuckle. During high school, I had a summer job with a family practitioner, Dr. Charles Tubbs. I started in the front office, filing, answering phones, etc. Before long, Dr. Tubbs took me under his wing and allowed me increasing responsibility with his patients such as taking vital signs, observing interviews, and even rounding with him in the hospital. I found this very exciting and was in awe of the relationship a physician has with their patient. The next summer I worked as a clerk in the intensive care unit of our community hospital. I was exposed to a completely different type of medicine, and loved it even more. I began college with the goal of medical school. I had always enjoyed science, so this seemed like a natural course. But I really can’t point to an “aha” moment. 
 What kind of research do you do? What are you working on right now? 
In my role as Chair of Radiology, my work is now administrative with some clinical care.  I have the responsibility for growing the research enterprise in Radiology, which is very exciting and challenging. It has been a steep learning curve, because my experience has been in clinical research, not basic science or translational research, yet most of my current faculty recruiting has concentrated in these areas.  
The cyclotron and Advanced Imaging Facility are remarkable and complex projects that will be transformative for UAB. Imaging biomarkers will be a key component for UAB’s personalized medicine platform. Because of the investment Alabama and UAB has made in these facilities, we are attracting top imaging researchers. In fact, just recently we recruited a husband and wife who will be a dynamic duo in basic science and translational research as well as in the cyclotron program.  It is a very exciting time for my department. 
 What kind of obstacles do you face being a woman pursuing in medicine? Did you face any as you were going to medical school?
I don’t remember challenges specifically relating to my being a woman. I’m sure they existed, but I have always tried to concentrate on things I can control. Most of my medical school classmates were men. Radiology is male-dominated; approximately 25 percent of current radiology residents are women. The number of practicing female radiologists is even less, and unfortunately, this trend is not improving. We need to make concerted efforts to increase diversity, not just gender diversity but diversity in every aspect. I know I appreciate the value of this and understand the importance of actively pursuing inclusivity. 
Medicine is challenging for men and women. Work/life balance is difficult. My husband is also a physician, and I am so fortunate that he has been willing to serve as a true co-parent when I became chair. I couldn’t have done this without him.   

Many doctors I've talked to stressed the difficulty in finding work-life balance. How do you go about achieving this? 
Most wouldn't think that I do achieve true balance, but I am closer than I was 10 years ago. I really try to keep work at work, and not let it encroach on family time. I no longer bring home a briefcase of papers and articles to read or review. I try not to check email too often, and I don't spend the entire weekend working.  Although I have not achieved the two week vacation without checking email level, I am much closer. I also now realize I must be a role model for my faculty, who also need this balance.  

What makes working with the Cancer Center different from working elsewhere 
It is truly a multidisciplinary team environment with amazingly bright physician-scientists and researchers and remarkable facilities. It is the ideal environment to find the cure for cancer. I am so proud to show faculty recruits and share the successes. 

 Do you have any advice for girls wanting to get into the medical field? 
Do what YOU want, not what you think others want you to do. Ignore stereotypes and don’t be afraid to be awesome. Work hard and blaze a trail for those behind you just like Elizabeth Blackwell [first female doctor in the U.S.] or Melson Barfield-Carter [first head of UAB's Department of Radiology] did for us.

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