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James D. Cannon, DHA, PA-C, CAQ, DFAAPA

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James D. Cannon (1964-2024) had a remarkable life journey. Raised in Yuma, Arizona, Cannon’s initial exposure to the Army ROTC at the University of Arizona ignited his passion for healthcare administration. Transitioning to a lieutenant in the Arizona Army National Guard’s medical detachment, he honed his skills and aspirations. With an MBA background as a comptroller for Metwest Clinical Laboratories and the Dial Corp, Cannon felt unfulfilled and contemplated a shift to the medical field. Inspired by his positive encounters with PAs in the Army Guard, he pursued and successfully entered the inaugural class of the AT Still University PA Program in Mesa, Arizona, in 1995. Excelling as a student and class officer, Cannon completed his clinical training at various military installations, including Fort Huachuca and Camp Navajo in Arizona, graduating in 1997.

In subsequent years, Cannon returned as a faculty member and director of the A.T. Still -ASHS Native American PA Program , a pioneering initiative to recruit and train Native Americans from reservations to become PAs. Cannon further demonstrated his commitment to advancing the field by spearheading the Advanced PA Program, a bridge program facilitating the pursuit of master’s degrees for PAs who already held a bachelor’s degree.

Cannon’s dedication to service extended to his direct commission into the Coast Guard Reserves, leading to deployments to Iraq and Kuwait for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. His tenure in the active-duty Coast Guard saw him assume pivotal roles, including PA Force Manager, Director of Field Operations, and Commanding Officer of the Enlisted Personnel for the Clinical Workforce. Coast Guard PAs experienced modernized pay and benefits through his leadership, access to post-graduate programs, and enhanced professional development opportunities.

Outside his military commitments, Cannon actively engaged with various PA professional groups, advocating for legislative changes and promoting the role of PAs in psychiatry. His impactful contributions led to establishing the Association of PAs in Psychiatry as a constituent chapter of the AAPA. Additionally, Cannon served on the Board of Trustees of A.T. Still University from 2011-2020 and served as secretary 2012-2013 and vice chair 2013-2014.

A passionate advocate for behavioral health, Cannon founded the Assure Wellness Group, where he served as president and CEO while maintaining a practice in inpatient psychiatry. His academic pursuits, including a Doctor of Health Administration in Mental Health Policy and an NCCPA Psychiatry Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ), underscored his commitment to lifelong learning. Cannon was an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) program at the University of Lynchburg.

Cannon was an AAPA Distinguished Fellow. His organizational leadership roles and memberships included: President of the Public Health Service Academy of PAs; Member of AAPA – CEO Search Committee Member, among other committees and task forces; eight years of service on the NCCPA Board, serving as chair in 2014; and Director-at-large for the Veterans Caucus and Virginia Association of PAs. He cultivated a passion for cars, piloting his Mooney aircraft, and riding motorcycles. He also collected works of art. Cannon routinely traveled for professional and humanitarian activities to pursue his educational passion projects. Cannon was a psychiatry PA in Chesapeake, VA, and was affiliated with Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, Southside Medical, and South Hampton Medical Center. He was an expert clinician with BioTE bio-identical hormones as a mentor and practice proctor.

In September 1993, Cannon’s only child, Patricia Ann-McCurtain Cannon, was born. Tishi – as he called her – was the love of his life.  Her wedding to Christopher Labbe in 2023 was a wondrous occasion, and her father spared no expense ensuring that her special day was everything that she had always dreamed.  Labbe being a pilot like Cannon made their talks about flying extra special. Cannon was looking forward to attending Tishi’s upcoming graduation from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in December 2024, where she will be receiving her master’s degree in Christian education.

Cannon passed away after an unfortunate automobile/motorcycle traffic accident in the Dominican Republic on March 31, 2024. Plans are being made at this writing for internment in Arlington National Cemetery later this year.

Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Randy Danielsen with the assistance of Patricia “Tishi” Labbe (nee Cannon). It was submitted to the Society in June 2024. All photographs are courtesy of Tishi Labbe.

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