Dr. Brooke Cunningham, an assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health, is now the leader of the new state Health Equity Bureau. This well earned accomplishment comes after she spent years researching how racism affects health outcomes.

As a primary care provider, sociologist and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, Cunningham has years of experience working with communities of color. She received her medical degree and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Cunningham has lived in Minneapolis since 2013 and moved to the city after completing post-doctoral fellowships in general internal medicine and bioethics/health policy at John Hopkins University. She’s also a mom of one.

As a child growing up in Richmond, Va., Dr. Brooke Cunningham noticed racial disparities early on in her life. A lifetime of seeking answers on racial disparities has led Cunningham to the position of assistant commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Health where she analyses the department’s new Health Equity Bureau. Launched last month, the bureau will take forward lead on the department’s health equity initiatives and solicit community input on those efforts.

Her primary care practice at Community-University Health Care Center in the Phillips neighborhood serves a diverse and versatile patient population. Cunningham’s patients are mostly lower-income uninsured or underinsured people who have difficulty being able to manage the time to visit a doctor or specialist.

“My patients, when we talk about racism as a fundamental cause of health inequities, have commented on the experiences of racism that have been impacting their health,” she said.

Although Cunningham went into medicine to become a sociologist and researcher, being able to work at the clinic has been the prime highlight of her career that she is most proud of, she said.

Observers agree that this is a big step forward having a woman of color hold a position that can ultimately change the health gap that the United States is facing. Many people are looking forward to seeing great work from Dr. Cunningham in the future.