Drug users with and at-risk for HIV continue to have poor access to health care and poor treatment outcomes. In addition, opioid addiction involving prescription opioids has skyrocketed. In this proposal for a mid-career investigator award, Dr. Chinazo Cunningham proposes to address the opioid epidemic and its intersection with HIV infection by: 1) becoming an internationally recognized leader in the field of drug abuse and HIV, expanding her research to include advanced research methods (comparative effectiveness research [CER] methods and complex clinical trials methods);2) developing a standardized and structured mentorship approach to mentor junior investigators to conduct patient-oriented research related to drug abuse and/or HIV infection;and 3) becoming an effective leader in academic medicine, ensuring that the institutional infrastructure facilitates junior investigators obtaining skills necessary to become independent investigators. To achieve these goals, Dr. Cunningham will participate in courses and national conferences, have directed readings, and regularly meet with national leaders in related fields. Dr. Cunningham will particularly focus on mentoring women and racial/ethnic minorities-two groups who are under-represented in senior positions in academic medicine and NIH-funded research. Dr. Cunningham will utilize her existing research program as a foundation for which she will provide mentoring and expand her research skills to include CER and complex clinical trials methods.
The aims of her research are to: 1) test the efficacy of a 16-week abstinence-reinforcing contingency management intervention on HIV viral load suppression among opioid-dependent HIV-infected individuals, using a randomized controlled trial design;and 2) examine mechanisms of achieving viral load suppression with the abstinence-reinforcing contingency management intervention. Dr. Cunningham's future research will include the establishment of a comprehensive "live" database of all opioid users within a large urban medical center. This database will be used to examine health outcomes associated with types of opioid use and to develop and test interventions focused on opioid use. Dr. Cunningham's long-term career objective is to improve access to care and health outcomes among drug-abusing populations with or at-risk for HIV infection by developing interventions that can reduce their disparities in health care and health.
This application for a K24 mid-career investigator award seeks to provide support to Dr. Chinazo Cunningham to provide excellent mentorship, effective leadership, and expand her current research to include advanced research methods (comparative effectiveness research methods and complex clinical trials methods). Dr. Cunningham will mentor junior investigators in the areas of drug abuse and HIV, with an emphasis on providing mentorship to racial/ethnic minorities and women. Dr. Cunningham will use her existing research project as a foundation to provide much of her mentorship. In addition, expanding her research to include comparative effectiveness research and complex clinical trials focused on opioid use will allow her to conduct new research and provide additional mentorship that can ultimately improve health outcomes of drug users with and at-risk for HIV.