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 drug users with or at-risk for HIV; buprenorphine treatment in primary care settings; opioid use, misuse, and addiction; collaborating with community-based organization

Professional Interests


Since 1998, Chinazo Cunningham, MD, MS has been providing care, developing programs, and conducting research focused on marginalized populations including drug users 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, SAMHSA, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and local and state Departments of Health. In addition to her own research, she has mentored over 25 trainees to conduct clinical research, resulting in many 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.



1. Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Barriers to Opioid Addiction Treatment with Buprenorphine

Dr. Cunningham received support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program. This 4-year research award is given to historically disadvantaged physicians who are committed to research, academic medicine, and improving the health of underserved populations..

2. Dr. Cunningham has joined, by invitation, the Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section at the Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, for the term beginning July, 2012 and ending June 30, 2018. She wll serve as Chair from 2016-2018.

Study section members are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.  Membership on a study section represents a unique opportunity to contribute to the national biomedical research effort. Study sections review grant applications submitted to the NIH, make recommendations on these applications to the appropriate NIH national advisory council or board, and survey the status of research in their fields of science.

3. Dr. Cunningham was selected as a Fellow in the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) Program, class of 2014-2015. 

ELAM® is the only program in North America dedicated to preparing women for senior leadership roles in academic health science institutions, where they enhance institutional leadership diversity while contributing to organizational strategy and innovation. www.drexelmed.edu/elam


Selected Publications

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

Cunningham WE, Sohler NL, Tobias C, Drainoni ML, Bradford J, Davis C, Cabral HJ, Cunningham CO, Eldred L, Wong MD. Health Services Utilization for People with HIV Infection: A Comparison of a Population Targeted for Outreach with theU.S. Population in Care. Medical Care. 2006 Nov;44(11):1038-1047.

Cunningham CO, Sohler NL, Ramsey K, Li X. A comparison of HIV-related utilization measures in a marginalized population: Self-report versus medical record information. Medical Care. 2007 Mar;45(3):264-268.

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.

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

CNN quotes Dr. Chinazo Cunningham on the need to study non-opioid strategies, such as prescribing medical marijuana, to address chronic pain.

The Daily News interviews Dr. Chinazo Cunningham about treating drug addiction as a chronic disease, rather than a moral failing.

More media coverage