Brooke Cunningham

Former CTSI scholar to lead new, equity-focused Minnesota Department of Health bureau

University of Minnesota faculty member and former CTSI scholar Brooke Cunningham, MD, PhD, has been tapped to lead the recently created Health Equity Bureau at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dr. Cunningham, who completed the CTSI Pre-K Discovery Scholars Program in 2018, will assume the role of assistant commissioner on March 2.

The Health Equity Bureau will serve as MDH’s hub for proactive diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and lead the department’s equity work within the COVID-19 response. The new bureau houses a variety of units, such as the Center for Health Equity and the newly created Office of American Indian Health. 

A focus on service

The new position is a natural extension of Cunningham’s work at the University’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, where she’s a general internist, sociologist, and assistant professor. 

Dr. Cunningham’s research examines factors for addressing health equity, including how health care workers make sense of race and frame the causes of and solutions to racial disparities in health and health care. 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.

Dr. Cunningham also co-directs the Medical School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Thread and practices medicine at Community-University Health Care Clinic, a federally qualified health clinic that serves a diverse patient population, including many low-income families.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm expressed full confidence in the new assistant commissioner in an MDH news release:

“Dr. Cunningham brings a remarkable breadth of experience and skill to our equity work, and we are excited to have her join our team. Advancing health equity is the work of all of us in public health, and her expertise and leadership will help us move forward not only in the context of the pandemic response but in all aspects of our work.”