School of Medicine

Cunningham tapped as new chair for UCI Pediatrics and Senior Vice President & Pediatrician-in-Chief for CHOC Children’s

Coleen Cunningham, MD
UCI School of Medicine
Coleen Cunningham, MD, accepts dual appointment as both chair for the UCI Department of Pediatrics and as senior vice president and pediatrician-in-chief for CHOC Children's.

Irvine, Calif. – Oct. 21, 2020 - Following a national search, the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine and CHOC Children’s have jointly announced that Coleen Cunningham, MD, a renowned professor of pediatrics and pathology from Duke University, has accepted a dual appointment position as both the chair for the UCI Department of Pediatrics and as senior vice president and pediatrician-in-chief for CHOC Children’s.  Her appointment is effective March 1, 2021.

In this unique, dual role, Cunningham will be responsible for leading UCI’s Department of Pediatrics and its 16 divisions that span the spectrum of diseases and disorders.  She is charged with bringing real-world academics, scientists and clinicians together to collaborate and uncover new knowledge through research, and effectively apply that knowledge to advance children’s health. As senior vice president and pediatrician-in-chief (PIC) at CHOC Children’s, Cunningham will serve as a senior clinical leader with oversight responsibility for the healthcare system’s vast pediatric medical and surgical services, academic advancement, research and teaching programs, as well as become the key physician executive liaison between CHOC and UCI.  

“Dr. Cunningham’s broad medical experience, advanced research expertise and extraordinary leadership capabilities in the field of children’s health will be transformative to Orange County and the communities that CHOC and UCI serve,” said CHOC Children’s President and CEO Kimberley Chavalas Cripe. “Combining the clinical, research and academic expertise of UCI and CHOC will not only advance the pediatric care of children in the region, but also advance the education and training of the next generation of pediatric experts through a fully integrated program that leverages a top tier children’s health system with a top tier academic health system.”

Balancing the tripartite mission of UCI School of Medicine – Discover. Teach. Heal. – Cunningham will drive research, educational and clinical excellence, while helping further CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children. In her role, she will ensure full integration of research and academic priorities across the continuum of care at both CHOC and UCI’s pediatric programs.

“Dr. Cunningham is a nationally-recognized scholar and forward-thinking leader, with a distinguished record of achievement in research, education and clinical care,” said Michael J. Stamos, MD, dean of the UCI School of Medicine.  “We are confident in her ability to lead our organizations.  Hers is a great story of achievement and we are honored to have her join us.”

Cunningham joins UCI and CHOC Children’s from Duke University where she serves as professor with tenure in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, as chief of Global Health, and vice chair for research in the Department of Pediatrics.  She holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Pathology at Duke.

Cunningham earned her medical degree from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, where she also did her residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases.  At SUNY, Cunningham also served as an associate professor of pediatrics.  

Her work on HIV and AIDS in children has been recognized numerous times, as has her work on H1N1 influenza. Most recently, Cunningham was awarded the Denny, Katz, Simon, Tingelstad Academic Service Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  She also recently received the Translational Research Mentoring Award from Duke University Medical Center and was selected for participation in the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine. 

Cunningham has published more than 120 manuscripts and led many multicenter clinical trials aimed at the treatment and prevention of HIV infection in children.  She has obtained several competitive research funding awards and served on National Institutes of Health and other grant reviews.  She has also done extensive work as an educator, teaching students at all levels, from undergraduate to fellows, focusing on training Pediatric Infectious Diseases Physician Scientists.

About CHOC Children's

Committed to becoming the leading destination for children’s health by providing exceptional and innovative care, CHOC Children’s pediatric healthcare system includes two state-of-the-art children’s hospitals in Orange and Mission Viejo and a regional network of primary and specialty care clinics serving children and families in four counties.  Affiliated with the University of California, Irvine, CHOC offers several clinical programs of excellence providing the highest levels of care for the most serious pediatric illnesses and injuries, both physical and mental. CHOC’s research and innovation institutes are focused on translating real patient needs into real-world treatments so every child can live the healthiest and happiest life possible. To learn more, visit

About the UCI School of Medicine

Each year, the UCI School of Medicine educates more than 400 medical students, and nearly 150 doctoral and master’s students. More than 700 residents and fellows are trained at UCI Medical Center and affiliated institutions. The School of Medicine offers an MD; a dual MD/PhD medical scientist training program; and PhDs and master’s degrees in anatomy and neurobiology, biomedical sciences, genetic counseling, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, pathology, pharmacology, physiology and biophysics, and translational sciences. Medical students also may pursue an MD/MBA, an MD/master’s in public health, or an MD/master’s degree through one of three mission-based programs: the Health Education to Advance Leaders in Integrative Medicine (HEAL-IM), the Leadership Education to Advance Diversity-African, Black and Caribbean (LEAD-ABC), and the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC). The UCI School of Medicine is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Accreditation and ranks among the top 50 nationwide for research. For more information, visit