John Cunningham appointed chairman of Pediatrics

After a national search, John M. Cunningham, the Donald N. Pritzker Professor, has been formally appointed chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, effective Aug. 1.

An authority on the study and treatment of childhood cancers, as well as the biology and therapy of hemoglobinopathies—blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia—Cunningham is known for his work on understanding the molecular mechanism underpinning red blood cell production. He has developed stem cell transplant techniques for the 70 percent of children who do not have a sibling match. These approaches have made transplant an option for any child requiring this therapy.

Kenneth Polonsky, dean of the Biological Sciences Division and executive vice president for medical affairs, lauded Cunningham in his role as section chief of pediatric hematology/oncology since arriving at the University in late 2006.

“He rapidly built up our pediatric cancer program by recruiting leading faculty, establishing new programs, expanding our clinical trial and bone marrow transplantation programs, strengthening basic research efforts and working with his colleagues to build relationships with community hospitals and referring physicians,” Polonsky said. “He has continued that success in his larger role, since 2014, as interim chair of pediatrics.”

In December 2006, Cunningham moved to UChicago to become professor of pediatrics and section chief of hematology/oncology and stem cell transplantation. He was named vice chairman for research in pediatrics in 2008.

“It is a great honor and a vast responsibility to take on this new role,” Cunningham said. “Pediatrics at the University of Chicago has tremendous strengths, including numerous nationally renowned members of the faculty, strong clinical and research programs, excellent nursing, and a nearly new and expanding facility: the Comer Children’s Hospital.”

“I am flattered to have been selected,” he said, “and determined to enhance our commitment to compassionate, individualized care for all children, and to continue at the forefront of innovation and discovery of the most effective therapies for childhood diseases.”

Cunningham has published almost 80 scientific articles in leading journals, as well as multiple book chapters and invited reviews. He served on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and is a reviewer for Blood; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Cancer Research; and Genomics. He is a member of the American Cancer Society’s Council for Extramural Grants, and pediatric series editor for The Oncologist.