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Melissa Anne Cunningham, MD, PhD, MA

Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at the M­edical University of South Carolina

Dr. Melissa Cunningham is a rheumatologist at the Medical University of South Carolina and Associate Professor in the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology. She obtained her Medical and Doctor of Philosophy dual degree (MD/PhD) from The Pennsylvania State University. She then completed her internal medicine residency and rheumatology fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Following fellowship, Dr. Cunningham joined the faculty at the Medical University of South Carolina as an Assistant Professor. She is the current Director of the Physician Scientist Training Program in the Department of Medicine, and helps shape the next generation of physician-scientists. Over the last ten years she has co-chaired MUSC’s Annual Lupus Patient Education Day that is attended by over 200 lupus patients and family members. Dr. Cunningham was named MUSC Physician of the M­­onth in 2018 and has amazing ratings from her patients which are consistently amongst the highest at MUSC.

Dr. Cunningham’s research focuses on the role of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) in modulating Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling and inflammation in lupus. This work provides novel insight into the sex disparity in lupus and may open a whole new area for drug targeting and diagnostics. Dr. Cunningham's scientific accomplishments are exemplified by her receiving an ACR outstanding fellow award in 2012 and her list of external funding including her first R01 from NIAMS on her estrogen receptor research. This follows a prior 3-year CTSA KL2 career development grant, a 5-year NIH/NIAMS K08 grant, R bridge funding from the ACR and Doris Duke PERK Award. She has mentored or served on the mentoring committees of three women scholars: two of whom joined the faculty in Rheumatology and one who is in Dermatology Residency (with a focus on rheumatologic skin disease) at Georgetown University.