Richard Cannon received his B.A. in physics and astronomy from Vanderbilt University in 1972 and a M.D. from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1976. While in medical school, he was honored by the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and received the Albert Weinstein Prize in Medicine. He did his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine’s Barnes Hospital and was named Intern of the Year in 1977 and Resident of the Year in 1978. He joined the NIH for a fellowship in cardiology from 1979 to 1982. Dr. Cannon has worked in different roles in the Cardiology Branch of the NHLBI since 1982, including as a Senior Investigator and Co-Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Section, as well as Deputy Chief for Clinical Services and subsequently as Acting Chief from 1998 to 2001. Dr. Cannon was the Clinical Director of the DIR from 2002 to 2012, and chaired the Medical Executive Committee from 2003 to 2005. He was appointed chair of the NHLBI Institutional Review Board for Clinical Research in 2012. Dr. Cannon has received the NIH Bench to Bedside Award, Director’s Award, and Clinical Fellows Teaching Award, as well as the NHLBI Merit Award for leadership that contributed to the successful accomplishment of an NIH program in improving the oversight of clinical trials conducted within the DIR and protecting human subjects. He has authored or coauthored more than 175 original manuscripts and more than 95 editorials, review articles, book chapters, and consensus documents. Dr. Cannon has served on the editorial boards of Circulation, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, and the American Journal of Cardiology. He is a member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, and has served on many committees for both organizations and the NIH Clinical Center.
People with obesity, diabetes, or even pre-diabetic conditions are predisposed to adverse cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Such people have altered functioning of the blood vessels—in particular, the endothelial cells that line arteries. To understand the mechanisms underlying this dysfunction, Dr. Cannon has turned from his more basic research interests in vascular endothelial function and nitric oxide bioactivity to focus on a clinical program that addresses the relationship between diabetes risk and arterial function.
Dr. Cannon's current clinical research protocol, begun in 2008 and conducted on the NIH campus for its employees, is titled, "Effects of worksite wellness interventions on vascular function, insulin sensitivity, and high-density lipoprotein on overweight or obese women." The protocol recognizes the growing influence of physical inactivity in the workplace coupled with excess caloric intake on the risk of obesity. The primary goal has been to test whether supervised weight loss through nutritional counseling and daily exercise at worksite facilities improves several measures of cardiovascular health.
In addition to assessing biomarkers such as insulin sensitivity, markers of inflammation, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, Dr. Cannon and his colleagues test both blood vessel and cardiac function. They are now adding multiple measures of skeletal muscle function, including tests of muscle activity at the extremities, which may be stimulated by insulin and contribute to difficulty in exercising and result in a negative fitness cycle, with progressive obesity.
Dr. Cannon is currently investigating the effect of increased insulin levels on muscle mass and muscle performance. Although the current protocol includes behavioral modifications only, Dr. Cannon believes that a greater understanding of the metabolic mechanisms linking diabetes risk and muscle function may lead to pharmacological interventions as a complement to lifestyle changes. Any interventions, however, must be amenable to extension beyond the NIH Clinical Center and into communities where there is a growing epidemic of obesity-related disease. To this end, Dr. Cannon is collaborating to bring in a populations science perspective and to adapt community-based approaches to obesity management and prevention.
In addition to his clinical research program, Dr. Cannon runs a weekly clinic at Suburban Hospital that he began in 2007 with MobileMedical Care. He and his many volunteers provide cardiology care for uninsured residents of Montgomery County, MD. This program provides a community service, offers a teaching opportunity for students and research fellows, and affords a broader opportunity for community members to participate in clinical trials at the NIH Clinical Center.