Faculty Profile

Dr. Chinazo O. Cunningham, M.D.,  M.S.

Chinazo O. Cunningham, M.D., M.S.

Professor, Department of Medicine (General Internal Medicine)

Professor, Department of Family and Social Medicine

Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Director of Diversity Affairs for the Department of Medicine, Department of Medicine

Associate Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, Director of Research Resources, Department of Medicine

Director, General Internal Medicine Fellowship Program, Department of Medicine

Areas of Research: Improving access to care and health outcomes among people who use drugs with or at-risk for HIV; buprenorphine treatment; opioid use and disorder; medical cannabis use; collaborating with community-based organizations

Professional Interests


Since 1998, Chinazo Cunningham, MD, MS has been providing care, developing programs, and conducting research focused on marginalized populations including people who use drugs with or at-risk for HIV infection.  She has collaborated with community-based organizations to develop unique and innovative programs to deliver health care to these marginalized populations. Parallel with program development, her research has focused on improving access to care, utilization of health care services, and health outcomes.  Dr. Cunningham has been the principal investigator on numerous grants funded by the NIH, CDC, HRSA, local and state Departments of Health, and foundations. In addition to her own research, she has mentored scores of trainees to conduct clinical research, resulting in several NIH-funded grants led by her trainees. Dr. Cunningham has served on numerous national advisory committees, including serving as the Chair of NY State Department of Health AIDS Institute’s Substance Abuse Committee; a member of the Opioid Guideline Workgroup of the CDC's Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, 2016; a member of the NIH Office of AIDS Research’s Racial and Ethnic Populations Committee; and a member and Chair of the NIH’s Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section. 

Prior to becoming faculty at Einstein, Dr. Cunningham received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, her medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and completed her residency in primary care internal medicine at UCSF and New York University (NYU), followed by a year of chief residency at NYU.  While at Einstein, she received her master’s degree in clinical research methods.



Member, Board of Scientific Counselors, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the CDC (2018-2022)

Member, CDC’s National Opioid Prescribing Estimates Workgroup (2018)

Member, Governor Cuomo’s Workgroup to Draft Legislation for Regulated Adult-Use Marijuana Program (2018)

Member, NYC Municipal Drug Strategy Council, Community Services Board Substance Misuse Subcommittee (2018)

Chair, NYS Department of Health AIDS Institute Substance Use Guidelines Commmittee (2016-current)

Chair and member, Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section at the Center for Scientific Review, NIH (2012-2018)

New York State Department of Health Commissioner’s Special Recognition Award (2017)

Member, Opioid Guideline Workgroup, CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, 2016 

Clinical Science Mentor of the Year, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2015)

W. Anderson Spickard, Jr Excellence in Mentorship Award, Association of Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (2015)

Fellow, Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) Program (2014-2015)




Selected Publications

For a comprehensive list of publications, see the PubMed link above. Below is a selection of publications:

Cabral HJ, Tobias C, Rajabiun S, Sohler NL, Cunningham CO, Wong MD, Cunningham WE. Outreach program contacts: Do they increase the likelihood of engagement and retention in HIV primary care for hard-to-reach patients?  AIDS Patient Care STDs. 2007 Jun;21(S1):S59-S56.

Cunningham CO, Kunins HV, Roose RJ,Elam RT, Sohler NL. Barriers to Obtaining Waivers to Prescribe Buprenorphine for Opioid Addiction Treatment Among HIV Physicians. J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Sep;22(9):1325-9. Epub 2007 Jul 10. PMC2219773

Cunningham CO, Sanchez JP, Heller D, Sohler NL. Assessment of a medical outreach program to improve access to HIV care among marginalized individuals. Am J Public Health. 2007 Oct;97(10):1758-61. Epub 2007 Aug 29. PMC1994196

Cunningham CO, Giovanniello A, Sacajiu G, Whitley S, Mund P, Beil R, Sohler NL. Buprenorphine treatment in an urban community health center: What to expect. Fam Med. 2008 Jul-Aug;40(7):500-6. PMC2840630

Altice FL, Bruce RD, Lucas GM, Lum PJ, Korthius PT, Flanigan TP, Cunningham CO, et al. HIV treatment outcomes among HIV-infected opioid dependent patients receiving buprenorphine/naloxone treatment in HIV care setting: Results from a multi-site study. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2011 Mar 1;56 Suppl 1:S22-32. PMC3263431

Fiellin DA, Weiss L, Botsko M, Egan JE, Altice FL, Bazerman L, Chaudhry A, Cunningham CO, et al. Drug treatment outcomes among HIV-infected, opioid-dependent patients receiving buprenorphine/naloxone. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2011 Mar 1;56 Suppl 1:S33-8.

Cunningham CO, Giovanniello A, Li X, Kunins HV, Roose RJ, Sohler NL. A comparison of buprenorphine induction strategies: patient-centered home-based inductions versus standard-of-care office-based inductions. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2011 Jun;40(4):349-56. Epub 2011 Feb 18. PMC3081891.

Starrels JL, Fox AD, Kunins HK, Cunningham CO. They don’t know what they don’t know: Internal medicine residents’ knowledge and confidence in urine drug test interpretation for patients with chronic pain.  J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Nov;27(11):1521-7. PMC3475838

Fox AD, Sohler NL, Ning Y, Starrels JL, Giovanniello A, Cunningham CO. Pain is not associated with worse office-based buprenorphine treatment outcomes. Subst Abus. 2012 Oct;33(4):361-5. PMC3447624

Bachhuber MA, Cunningham CO. Availability of buprenorphine on the Internet for purchase without a prescription. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Jun 1;130(1-3):238-40. PMC3600391

Kunins HV, Sohler NL, Giovanniello A, Thompson D, Cunningham CO.  Implementation and evaluation of a buprenorphine education and training program for primary care internal medicine residents. Subst Abus. 2013;34(3):242-7. PMC3799907

Bachhuber MA, Cunningham CO.  Changes over time in offering on-site testing for HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and hepatitis C virus in opioid treatment programs. JAMA. 2013 Dec 25;310(24):2671-2. PMC4038104

Fox AD, Shah P, Sohler NL, Lopez C, Cunningham CO. I heard it from a friend: Assessing interest in buprenorphine treatment. Subst Abus. 2014;35(1):74-9. PMC3942801

Cunningham CO, Buck J, Shaw F, Seigal L, Agins B. Factors associated with returning to HIV care after a gap in New York State. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2014 Aug 1;66(4):419-27. PMC4120656

Bachhuber MA, Southern WN, Cunningham CO. Profiting and providing less care: comprehensive services at for-profit, nonprofit, and public opioid treatment programs in the United States. Med Care. 2014 May;52(5):428-34. PMC4277871

Bachhuber MA, Saloner B, Cunningham CO, Barry SL. Medical cannabis laws and opioid pain reliever overdose mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Oct 1;174(10):1668-73. PMC4392651

Blank AE, Fletcher J, Blackstock O, Verdecias N, Cunningham CO. Factors associated with retention and viral suppression among a cohort of HIV+ women of color. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2015 Jan;29 Suppl 1:S27-35. PMC4283067

Blackstock O, Blank AE, Fletcher J, Verdecias N, Cunningham CO. Considering care-seeking behaviors reveals important differences among HIV-positive women not engaged in care: implications for intervention. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2015 Jan;29 Suppl 1:S20-6. PMC4283072

Fox AD, Maradiaga J, Weiss L, Sanchez J, Starrels JL, Cunningham CO. Release from incarceration, relapse to opioid use and the potential for buprenorphine maintenance treatment: a qualitative study of the perceptions of former inmates with opioid use disorder. Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2015 Jan 16;10(1):2. PMC4410477

Felsen UR, Bellin EY, Cunningham CO, Zingman BS. Unknown HIV status in the Emergency Department: Implications for an expanded testing strategy.  J Int Assoc Provid AIDS Care. 2016 Jul;15(4):313-9.

Starrels JA, Haughton L, Cunningham CO. When human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatment goals conflict with guideline-based opioid prescribing: A qualitative study of HIV treatment providers. Subst Abus. 2016 Jan-Mar;37(1):148-53. PMC4859811

Maradiaga JA, Nahvi S, Sanchez J, Cunningham CO, Fox AD. I kicked the hard way: I got incarcerated. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2016 Mar;62:49-54. PMC4888768

Bachhuber MA, Hennessy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JA. Increasing benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose mortality in the United States, 1996-2013. Am J Public Health. 2016 Apr;106(4):686-8. PMC4816010

Blackstock OJ, Moore BA, Berkenblit G, Calabrese SK, Cunningham CO, Fiellin DA, Patel V, Phillips KA, Tetrault JM, Shah M, Edelman EJ. A cross-sectional online survey of HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Adoption among Primary Care Physicians. J Gen Intern Med. 2017 Jan;32(1):62-70.

Felsen UR, Cunningham CO, Heo M, Futterman DC, Weiss JM, Zingman BS. Expanded HIV testing strategy leveraging the electronic medical record uncovers undiagnosed infection among hospitalized patients. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2017 May 1;75(1):27-34.

Fox AD, Sohler NL, Frost T, Lopez C, Cunningham CO. Development and evaluation of a community-based buprenorphine treatment intervention. Harm Reduct J. 2017 May 12;14(1):23.

Ross J, Felsen UR, Cunningham CO, Patel VV, Hanna DB. Outcomes along the HIV care continuum among undocumented immigrants in clinical care. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2017 Oct;33(10):1038-1044.

Norton BL, Fleming J, Bachhuber MA, Steinman M, DeLuca J, Cunningham CO, Johnson N, Laraque F, Litwin AH. High HCV cure rates for people who use drugs treated with direct acting antiviral therapy at an urban primary care clinic. Int J Drug Policy. 2017 Aug 12: (17)30235-9.

Scott TM, Rivera Mindt M, Cunningham CO, Arias F, Coulehan K, Massey Z, Mangalonzo A, Olsen P, Arnsten JH. Neuropsychological function is improved among opioid dependent adults who adhere to opiate agonist treatment with buprenorphine-naloxone: A preliminary study. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2017 Nov 15;12(1):48.

Bachhuber MA, O’Grady M, Chung H, Neighbors C, DeLuca J, D’Aloia E, Diaz A, Cunningham CO. Delivery of routine screening and brief intervention for unhealthy drinking to adult primary care patients in an urban academic Federally Qualified Health Center. Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2017 Dec 7;12(1):33.

Sohler NL, Khalid L, Starrels JO, Jost JJ, Arnsten JH, Bachhuber MA, Nahvi S, Cunningham CO. Cannabis use is associated with lower odds of prescription opioid analgesic use among HIV-infected individuals with chronic pain. Subst Use Misuse. 2018 Jan 17:1-6.

Jakubowski A, Castillo F, Pappas A, Isaacsohn L, Cunningham CO, Bachhuber MA. Development and evaluation of a pilot overdose education and naloxone distribution program for hospitalized general medical patients. Subst Abuse. In press.

Bachhuber MA, Arnsten JH, Starrels JL, Cunningham CO. Willingness to Participate in Longitudinal Research Among People with Chronic Pain Who Take Medical Cannabis: A Cross-Sectional Survey. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018 Mar 1;3(1):45-53

Material in this section is provided by individual faculty members who are solely responsible for its accuracy and content.

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Research Information

In the News

It's Not Just Opioids: What Doctors Want You to Know About Benzos

Chinazo Cunningham, M.D., M.S., discusses the growing overdose epidemic associated with benzodiazepines, a class of medications commonly prescribed for anxiety that includes Xanax, Ativan and Valium. Dr. Cunningham is associate chief of the division of general internal medicine at Einstein and Montefiore.

Overdose Deaths Go Down Citywide—But Rise Sharply in East Harlem

Chinazo Cunningham, M.D., M.S., and Shadi Nahvi, M.D., M.S., discuss barriers to addiction treatment and the social and economic reasons contributing to increased overdose deaths in some lower-income areas of New York City. Dr. Cunningham is associate chief of the division of general internal medicine at Einstein and Montefiore; Dr. Nahvi is associate professor of medicine and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Einstein.

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