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AFN Announces 2023 Distinguished Fellow Awards

The Academy of Forensic Nursing Board of Directors has awarded Distinguished Fellowships to Dr. Annette Cannon and Laurie Charles. Distinguished Fellow is the highest recognition awarded to AFN Members. The award recognizes members who have contributed significantly to the field of forensic nursing for a minimum of 10 years through scholarship, education, and service in the advancement of the profession.

“AFN’s goal is to build a community where forensic nursing professionals can grow and, in turn, give back to the field and society,” said AFN President Jennifer Johnson. “The recipients of this year’s Distinguished Fellowships have strived to further the science of forensic nursing, and that effort has not gone unnoticed.”

Dr. Annette Cannon

Dr. Annette Cannon is an RN with more than 25 years of forensics experience. She has served a population of 600,000 for the past four years as the Jefferson County, Colorado coroner, and was re-elected in November 2022 for another four-year term. She holds a PhD in Healthcare Administration with a focus on the mentally ill in the criminal justice system, a Masters in Management, and a Masters in Nursing with an emphasis in Leadership. Her credentials include D-ABMDI (Diplomat - American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators), MDI (Medicolegal Death Investigator from the Colorado Coroners Association) and most recently, DF - AFN.

As an RN for over 35 years, she has served in a variety of healthcare settings ranging from medical surgical nursing to administrative and education positions, including city and county systems for the department of corrections outpatient clients, correctional inmates as a psychiatric forensic nurse, and presently as a coroner, death investigator, and management of the investigations, autopsy, and morgue operations within her office. Cannon continues to provide ongoing education and speaking engagements to the community and at nursing and death investigation conferences. She serves as a governor-appointed board member on the Colorado Coroner’s Standards and Training Board. She served more than 10 years as a governor-appointed board member and forensic nurse expert on the task force for the Treatment of Persons with Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal Justice System. She serves on various other boards and committees in a leadership role.

Cannon's professional goals are to expand her expertise, education, and certify in the forensics field; continue to provide education to nursing students, new nursing graduates, and to those desiring to change fields about forensic nursing possibilities; and provide clinical rotations or internships to nurses through the next four years of her elected appointment at the coroner’s office. Her goals within AFN are to continue to collaborate with all nurses regarding their encounters with forensic clients or decedents; continue networking through education about nursing and forensics; and continue to expand all areas of forensic nursing throughout learning institutions and in the nursing community.

Since joining AFN, Cannon has participated in the SIG committee for Medicolegal Death Investigation. The SIG wrote an article, “Nurses and Medicolegal Death Investigation” in 2020, which was published in the Journal of Forensic Nursing. The group completed a Bootcamp Workshop that was presented through AFN. Cannon has written and published two books: An Investigation of How Inadequate Mental Health Resources Have Created a Mental Health Crisis for Incarcerated Juveniles with Mental Illness (2005) and Mental Health Crisis (2015). She has written and published several peer-review articles, and wrote a chapter for the book, Overview of Forensic Nursing Principles and Practice, called “When Death is the Outcome”. She has served as the Chair of the AFN SIG Death Investigation committee since January 2021.

Laurie Charles

Laurie Charles is an internationally certified forensic nurse who has seen thousands of patients impacted by violence in her 30-year nursing career. She began her nursing career in the emergency department and quickly moved into pediatric forensic nursing. She supervised an incredible team of passionate forensic nurses at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. While in San Antonio, Texas for 16 years, she was blessed to collaborate with fantastic child abuse pediatricians, forensic nurses, and other multidisciplinary team members to improve the care and collaboration of children.

In 2016, Charles moved into her dream career as a forensic nurse educator and Clinical Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University in the School of Nursing, Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing (CEFN). Charles teaches graduate forensic nursing courses and guest lectures in undergraduate nursing and forensic science programs.

Charles’ passion is educating licensed healthcare professionals on the impact of violence on health across the lifespan. With her colleagues in the CEFN, she provides numerous continuing education courses for nurses and physicians on sexual assault across the lifespan, human trafficking, and the impact of interpersonal violence in pregnancy. Charles and her colleague collaborator, Dr. Stacey Mitchell, created several innovative experiential learning simulations for health professionals, including adult sexual assault simulation, virtual reality simulation, and mock testimony.

Charles served her profession by being a member of Sigma and the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), where she was the Texas Chapter president 2010-2012 and 2014. Charles is a charter member of the Academy of Forensic Nursing, serving as a member of the Human Trafficking Special Interest Group (SIG). She chairs the Pediatric SIG and was the secretary of the Education Committee (2018-2020). Charles is also a board member of the Forensic Nursing Certification Board, which created and implemented two new forensic nursing certifications – Generalist Forensic Nurse and Advanced Forensic Nurse. Charles chaired the Advisory Board tasked by the Texas Attorney General to update the Texas Evidence Collection Protocol. The protocol guides the care and treatment of persons who experience or perpetrate sexual assault in Texas. She is honored to serve her community as the incoming Vice President of the Board of the Brazos Valley Sexual Assault Resource Center.

Learn more about the AFN Distinguished Membership Awards here.

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