Dr. Tshaka Cunningham is the Associate Director of Scientific Collaboration for DIA. In this role, he coordinates the DIA Communities Program, which provides a neutral forum and online platform where experts from across the spectrum of diverse disciplines within the healthcare ecosystem can convene to discuss prominent issues and solutions. Prior to his joining DIA, he served as the Scientific Program Manager for the Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases Rehabilitation Research Program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs within the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Research & Development (VHA ORD). He earned a BA degree in molecular biology from Princeton University in New Jersey. He then worked as a research scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals Inc., also based in New Jersey, where he developed biological screening assays to identify drugs for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. He earned his doctoral degree in molecular biology, with a focus on virology, from Rockefeller University in New York and completed his postdoctoral training in immunology and tumor immunotherapy at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, and at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.
Dr. Cunningham has served as a technology development consultant to small biotechnology companies and has been an invited columnist on scientific and social issues for Nature magazine and The Scientist. In addition, he is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the Microbiology Department at Howard University College of Medicine and an affiliate faculty member at George Mason University in their School of Systems Biology. He was a subject matter expert (SME) in Genomics and Precision Medicine for the VHA ORD Genomic Medicine Implementation Program (GMIP) and convened the MVP-Diversity Working Group, which presented recommendations to the VA Genomic Medicine Program Advisory Committee (GMPAC) on patient recruitment strategies to ensure that minority Veteran participation in the VA’s Million Veteran Program is maximized. He also created the VA’s Historically Black College and University Research Scientist Training Program (VA HBCU-RSTP), the major diversity outreach initiative sponsored by VHA ORD. He remains an active member of the non-profit Minority Coalition for Precision Medicine (MCPM), where he serves as a scientific advisor and community health advocate.