Focus on Mentoring

Kathryn Cunnningham, PhDKathryn Cunningham, PhD
July 2020

Kathryn Cunningham earned her PhD in behavioral neuropharmacology from the University of South Carolina and pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) to further integrate pharmacology within medicine and therapeutics. She rose through the ranks to tenured full professor and founded the Center for Addiction Research with her colleagues in the department and on campus. She is currently the Chauncey Leake Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, the Director of the Center for Addiction Research and Vice Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Dr. Cunningham is a translational scientist with robust collaborations across academic and industry scientists. Their ultimate goal is to develop biomarkers and biosignatures that identify risk for substance use disorders (SUDs) and predict success of innovative diagnostics and therapeutics to effectively prevent and manage these disorders. She has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and is an invited speaker at numerous local, national, and international events. Dr. Cunningham has maintained continuous funding for over thirty years from NIH, pharmaceutical companies, and foundations and has served extensively on academic and professional committees. Her accomplishments have been recognized with multiple awards including the UTMB Distinguished Faculty Research Award, the ASPET-Astellas Award for Translational Pharmacology, and the Paul Vanhoutte Award for Excellence in Science. Dr. Cunningham also works with varied groups regionally and nationally to foster clinical research, awareness, and knowledge of SUDs. She was instrumental in the creation of the National Recovery Month celebration in Texas (Big Texas Rally for Recovery). Her community engagement efforts have resulted in the Lone Star Award from the Texas Association of Substance Abuse Programs, the Cruisin’ to Recovery Community Award, and the Angel Among Us Award for Long-Standing Community Support of Women in Recovery.

Throughout her academic career, Dr. Cunningham has cultivated and sustained a life-long commitment to fostering the research and career development of new scientists. One of her greatest strengths is her efficacy in creating strong collaborative networks across leaders in the fields of chemistry, preclinical, and clinical expertise, providing rich learning and growth opportunities for students. Her mentees are successful with publications in high impact, peer-reviewed journals and funding of competitive NIH and other awards. Her ability to inspire excellence and achievement is underscored by their successes with over 45 mentees who have productive careers in academia, industry and/or government. Of note, she has trained both M.D./Ph.D. and Ph.D. students who have capitalized on their backgrounds to pursue postdoctoral training and careers in clinical research. Please join the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in celebrating Dr. Cunningham as the July 2020 GSBS Focus on Mentoring designee.

Mentors: Past Highlights