TrailblazHer Series – Dr. Octavia Cannon

TrailblazHer [treyl-bleyz-Her]:

  1. A woman who blazes a trail for others to follow through.

  2. A pioneer in any field of endeavor.

This series is written for future & current entrepreneurs that are craving more knowledge on how to be a success. With this series, we plan to explore the experiences of prominent women who are making a path for others to follow.

Dr. Ocatvia Cannon is a board certified obstetrician & gynecologist and is co-owner of Arboretum Obstetrics & Gynecology in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Cannon is also the president-elect of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians & Gynecologists.

Dr. Cannon is a native of East Lansing, Michigan. She graduated with honors from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. She then went on to receive her medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Miami, FL. Afterwards, Dr. Cannon completed her residency training at St. John/Detroit Riverview Hospital & Hutzel Hospital in Michigan.

Dr. Cannon was the Director of Women’s Health at Gaston County Health Department for six years, then joined Arboretum OBGYN practice in October 2005. She is currently serving as the first African American president-elect of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOOG), founded in 1934. In 2018, she will officially assume the role of president of ACOOG.

Dr. Cannon is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She enjoys facilitating seminars & volunteering in various organizations such as the Junior League of Charlotte. Dr. Cannon has been quoted in various nationally known magazines such as Essence and Seventeen. Read below for more details on Dr. Cannon!

What attracted you to having your own business? I didn’t know that I wanted my own business until I joined private practice after working for six years at the Health Department.  It was nice having the option of working & vacationing when I wanted, provided my fellow partners didn’t have an issue.

What pieces of advice would you give to medical students, residents & attendings who want to become entrepreneurs? Remember that “you eat what you kill” when you own your business.  Employees & overhead costs must be paid first, so there may be lean times when you don’t get a paycheck!

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently? I would manage my money with more frugality & I would remember that working all the time may have a negative impact on my personal & social life.

What would you say are the skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? I think it’s important to have self confidence, trustworthy partners & employees, good money management skills (or someone trustworthy to advise you), great interpersonal & communication skills, a strong work ethic & FAITH.

What have been some of your failures & what have you learned from them? I think that one mistake many people make after undergraduate studies is ignoring the fact that once you get to the graduate studies & work level, EVERYONE is smart!! You aren’t the only one who skyrocketed to the top!  In addition, I was often too trusting of people. Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

How many hours do you work a week on average & how many of those hours are dedicated to entrepreneurship? I work 80-100 hours per week & probably ten hours actively sitting down doing work pertaining to business. Many times, physicians don’t dedicate a lot of time specifically to entrepreneurship; we just fold into our daily routine.

Describe & outline your typical day in your professional life. I wake up between 5:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. depending on whether I have a surgery scheduled before office hours or whether I have to make rounds at the hospitals. I try to get morning spiritual meditation in for a few minutes.  I then go to the office from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. depending on the amount of charts & patient labs that I have to review.  I often have teleconference or in-person meetings for other organizations to which I belong lasting until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.  I try to get dinner (or not), watch a little TV (stress outlet for me), read the paper, call my parents & family (most evenings), take a shower or bath & then go to bed.  I often get to bed around 1:00 a.m. even when I am on-call.  If I am on-call, I could potentially be up all night. I truly value sleep!  Even a 20 minute power nap can be life changing!

How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life? It requires a lot of personal sacrifice.  You often miss family events & special occasions, which can be difficult.

What motivates you in general? The fact that your legacy is every life that you touch, as Dr. Maya Angelou has said.  I don’t have children, so my legacy must manifest itself in a different way.

What is your greatest fear & how do you manage fear? My greatest fear is that I don’t accomplish my goals. I manage it by believing in God.

How do you define success? Feeling happy about the life that I have led & the way it has affected others.

What is the best way to achieve long-term success? I don’t know how to completely answer that question; since I don’t think that I have yet achieved long-term success for myself! However, I do think that faith in oneself coupled with faith in a power greater than oneself is essential.

What has been your most satisfying moment in medicine & business? I think delivering babies & providing surgical treatments that completely resolves someone’s medical issues is extremely gratifying. Being able to thrive as the only independent (not owned by a hospital system) OB/GYN practice in the city of Charlotte, NC is a wonderfully satisfying business moment, particularly because we are three African-American females.

What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs & those who work for someone else? Autonomy

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur. Challenging!!

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time? I love to read fiction, medical journals & fashion magazines!  I enjoy history & historical shows.  I love music & dancing. I am a foodie. I also love to spend time with my family. I have six nephews & three nieces but they all live in Michigan. So I try to go home to Michigan every few months.  I also enjoy community service via my sorority & other organization’s activities. I love to go to local schools & talk to kids about my career, personal hygiene, self esteem & health.

What makes you happy? Delivering healthy babies & letting God use me to be a blessing to others.

Dr. Cannon, thank you for being part of our TrailblazHer Series. We are so inspired by you!