Brooke Cunningham

Former CTSI scholar to lead Minnesota Department of Health

University of Minnesota faculty member and former CTSI scholar Brooke Cunningham, MD, PhD, has been named Minnesota health commissioner and will head up the Minnesota Department of Health. Dr. Cunningham completed the CTSI Pre-K Discovery Scholars Program in 2018.

Dr. Cunningham is one of six new state commissioners named by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz in December, filling out his cabinet as he begins his second term. 

Praise from the governor, other leaders

In a press release from the governor’s office, the Walz-Flanagan Administration expressed their confidence in Dr. Cunningham — who had previously led the department’s health equity work — and what she’ll accomplish as commissioner:

"As the leader of the Minnesota Department of Health’s equity work, Dr. Brooke Cunningham has demonstrated her skill as a leader and commitment to advancing the health and wellbeing of people across the state,” said Governor Walz. “She shares our vision of public health, and we are glad to have her leadership and expertise in our Administration.”

"Dr. Brooke Cunningham’s passion and expertise for health equity will help us build a more affordable, equitable health care system that serves all Minnesotans,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “With her leadership, we will continue to address the health inequities underlying our state and work to ensure Minnesota remains one of the healthiest states in the nation.”

In addition, Timothy Beebe, PhD, interim dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, praised Cunningham's “extensive experience in public health, patient care and public service.” Dr. Beebe also advises the Community & Collaboration component of CTSI’s Clinical and Translational Science Award.

Experience advancing health equity

In March, Brooke Cunningham was named assistant commissioner of the Health Equity Bureau at the Minnesota Department of Health. In that role, she identified strategies to advance health equity and oversaw the Center for Health Equity, the Office of American Indian Health, the COVID-19 Health Equity Team, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office. 

Dr. Cunningham is a general internist, sociologist, and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining MDH, her research focused on developing strategies to reduce racial disparities in health, including addressing the adverse impacts of exposure to racism. 

While a CTSI Pre-K scholar, Dr. Cunningham conducted a systematic review of interventions for promoting engagement with race, racism, or racial disparities in health and developed a scale to measure provider perceptions.