Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Department of Family Medicine

Natoshia R. Cunningham, PhD, is a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and is a licensed clinical psychologist.  Her HELP Lab  focuses on the psychological assessment and treatment of youth with chronic health conditions that involve pain.

Dr. Cunningham’s active research focuses on improving psychological care in youth with rheumatologic conditions.  She is currently leading a multi-site study funded by the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance-Arthritis Foundation (CARRA-AF) to test a telehealth application of a tailored cognitive behavioral intervention (Treatment and Education Approach for Childhood-onset Lupus (TEACH) she developed for adolescents and young adults diagnosed with childhood-onset lupus to manage fatigue, mood, and pain symptoms.  As a recognized leader in the psychological assessment and treatment of pediatric rheumatologic conditions, Dr. Cunningham currently serves as the co-chair of the Mental Health Workgroup of the CARRA organization.  In this role, she actively supports multiple projects geared towards improving psychological care for pediatric rheumatology patients.  Collaborative projects include the development of mental health screening and treatment guidelines for use in pediatric rheumatology settings, studying the impact of adverse childhood events on health-related outcomes in juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and the development of a family education program to promote pediatric mental health in pediatric rheumatology settings.

Dr. Cunningham’s research also focuses on improving psychological care for youth with functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPD).  Her current NIH/NCCIH K23 award studies the neural mechanisms of response to a cognitive behavioral treatment (Aim to Decrease Anxiety and Pain Treatment (ADAPT) to manage pain and anxiety in youth with FAPD, which she developed as part of her prior NIH/NICHD F32 award  and has found to be effective in a randomized clinical trial (in press).  Dr. Cunningham has also led a quality improvement initiative to integrate psychological screening into medical care for youth with abdominal pain, which was published in Pediatrics.

She is broadly interested in implementation science, and using neuroimaging techniques and other biomarkers to better understand the mechanisms of pain and response to psychological treatments.

Dr. Cunningham received her BA in psychology from Boston University in 2005, graduating summa cum laude with distinction.  As part of this experience, she trained at the Macquarie University Anxiety Research Unit in Sydney, Australia.  She earned her PhD in child clinical psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2011, specializing in the assessment and treatment of childhood anxiety disorders.  As part of her graduate training, she completed her clinical internship in pediatric behavioral medicine at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center from 2010-2011.  She came to MSU from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric pain from 2011 to 2014, and served as a research faculty member from 2014 to 2019.

More Information

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Assistant Professor
Family Medicine
15 Michigan St NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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