Dr. Melissa Cunningham was raised in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She received her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a Masters degree in molecular medicine from Boston University. After receiving her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Pennsylvania State University, she entered the ABIM’s clinician-scientist track at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she completed her residency and fellowship training in June 2012, and subsequently joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the division of rheumatology and immunology.
Dr. Cunningham's group has a particular interest in inflammation, autoimmunity, and sex bias. Her research is focused on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the role of estrogen receptor alpha (ERa) in modulating the inflammatory response in this disease, which is predominately diagnosed in females (9:1 vs. males). Her work has been supported by MUSC’s specialized center of research on sex and gender factors affecting women’s health, a grant from MUSC's center for genomic medicine and a three-year CTSA KL2 award. She is currently funded on a five-year NIH career development award (K08).