Holistic Care in Public Health Practice
Caring for the community begins with a desire and dedication to make it a better place. When Kanika Cunningham, M.D., M.P.H., (Med ’14), attended Saint Louis University School of Medicine, she learned lessons that sparked a career focused on serving the community and helping patients improve all aspects of their health.
In September 2022, Cunningham joined the St. Louis County Department of Public Health as a public health officer, and four months later, was promoted to director. Prior to her role in the county, she served as a primary care physician and later as associate director for the Family Care Health Centers in Carondelet, where she further expanded her influence.
“I did not think this opportunity was going to come this early in my career,” said Cunningham. “I love my job, and in it, I am serving an entire community — leading with equity and compassion for all individuals.”
Her personal philosophy is deeply rooted in SLU's core value, cura personalis — the idea of treating the whole individual beyond a medical condition. This holistic form of care heavily influenced Cunningham during her education, helping form a personal mission applied throughout her career.
“The most valuable lesson I learned at SLU is to put people first,” she said. “My hope is to integrate this into our department and among other local physicians because it is important to treat people individually within our community.”
Cunningham continues to leave an indelible mark on St. Louis through her work with substance abuse treatment programs, creating the Opioid Faith Based Initiative to provide opioid education to multiple churches and Black organizations, and aiding in the integration of addiction care into primary care and OB/GYN services in the St. Louis region.
As she continues to bolster the region’s public health, she remains true to the lessons she learned as a SLU student. By lending her ear to the community, she listens, learns, and seeks to enact change through the state’s largest public health agency.