Lisa Cunningham, PhD

Author: UTHSC

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Category: Health Professions | Past Winners

2022 Outstanding Alumna Award Winner

Lisa Cunningham

Dr. Lisa Cunningham is Scientific Director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the 27 institutes and centers that comprise the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Lisa was born and raised in East Tennessee. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Audiology from the University of Tennessee and completed a clinical fellowship in Audiology at Indiana University. She then obtained a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Virginia and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in auditory neuroscience at the University of Washington.

Dr. Cunningham’s lab at NIDCD conducts basic, translational, and clinical studies on hearing loss and develops therapeutic strategies to safeguard hearing. Of particular interest is the development of therapies to protect the hearing of patients undergoing treatment with therapeutic drugs that treat life-threatening diseases but that also damage the cells of the the inner ear and result in hearing loss.

Dr. Cunningham was voted among the Top 10 teachers in the Medical University of South Carolina College of Graduate Studies three times between 2004 and 2007; she received the National Organization for Hearing Research Burt Evans Young Investigator Award in 2008, and she was honored with NIDCD Director’s Awards in 2016 and 2020. In 2018 she received an NIH Graduate Partnerships Program Outstanding Mentor Award. Highlighting her innovation in bridging basic and clinical research, in 2020 Dr. Cunningham received an NIH Bench-to-Bedside Award in support of a Phase 3 study designed to protect the hearing of cancer patients being treated with cisplatin, a drug that is known to cause hearing loss. Dr. Cunningham was appointed as NIDCD Scientific Director in April 2021. In this role she oversees the NIDCD intramural research program, which includes over 160 scientists, clinicians and administrators in 17 research labs, research core facilities, and research clinics.