Lt. Col. U.S. Air Force, Med Corps
Associate Professor, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

I’m very fortunate to have trained at BIDMC, where I had fantastic mentors and a broad experience with many high-risk, high-acuity patients." 

A 22-year-old U.S. Army soldier who was shot and seriously wounded in 2010 in Afghanistan is alive and well today because Jeremy Cannon, MD, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, believed that soldiers with post-traumatic acute respiratory failure
should have access to extracorporeal membranous oxygenation (ECMO) in the combat theater.

ECMO, an advanced technology that takes over the functions of the lungs for days to weeks, had previously been considered too costly and cumbersome to be made
available to wounded soldiers in the combat theater. Cannon, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, wasn’t convinced. He knew, for example, that recent advances had made ECMO safer and more compact, and that it potentially saved lives, even in austere environments. Knowing also that respiratory failure greatly complicated patient transport and was responsible for a significant number of post-resuscitation combat deaths, Cannon felt compelled to act.

Backed by research, Cannon persuaded the top brass that ECMO should be offered to soldiers in combat settings and then set the wheels in motion to make it happen. The 22-year-old soldier, who Cannon treated once the young man arrived stateside, is just one of potentially hundreds of soldiers whose lives will be saved as a result.

Living in ‘dog years’

Today, Cannon is at San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMCC) in Texas, where he is Medical Director of the Trauma Intensive Care Unit, Program Director of the Trauma/Critical Care Fellowship Program, and Medical Director of the new Adult ECMO Program. He also conducts trauma research.

He is married to an internist, Jane Cannon, MD, who also trained at BIDMC, and has two sons, ages 7 and 9. “I feel like I’ve been living in dog years the past five-plus years; the pace has been pretty fast and furious,” he says.

In three years, after Cannon finishes paying back his nine-year commitment to the Air Force (which paid his Air Force Academy and medical school tuitions), he would like to continue as a trauma surgeon, but in an academic medical center — perhaps even returning to
Boston. “I had some of the best experiences of my life there,” he says, “and would love to come back some day.”