This month, St. Louis County announced Dr. Kanika Cunningham as its new public health director. Dr. Cunningham, a north county native, joined the department as a public health officer back in the fall of 2022, and was an associate medical director with Family Care Health Center. She got all her training at SLU, and says she’s “a true Billiken.”
Dr. Cunningham tells KMOX she’s excited to get to work in her new position and share her love for St. Louis County. Aside from her official work, she said, she’s been spending a lot of time doing work in her community.
“Some people may know me from my opiate work with bringing awareness, prevention, treatment, education information to the community,” she said. “I've learned to listen and adjust my approach from listening to the individual in front of me, and I hope to bring that to DPH into our staff to listen to our community — what do our community need, what do they want from us?”
Dr. Cunningham said she also wants to work on building relationships and reestablishing trust within her community.
“I think that's the other big thing. A lot of trust has been lost,” she said. “So hopefully DPH can become trusted messengers for our community partners again.”
The trust issue, she said, is something that she experienced firsthand during the pandemic, especially as a Black provider.
“I was in the midst of that as well, talking to my community about vaccines and wearing masks and all of that. Soeven though I wasn't a health director, I was right smack in the middle of that during that time,” she said. “And it was really, who should become that trusted messenger? So I did position myself in the community.”
Some of the things Dr. Cunningham wants to tackle are obesity, the opioid epidemic, STDs, smoking and alcohol abuse. She said she hopes to be able to make the public health department a hub of medical information, care, and equitable services for the county.
Hear more from the new Director of Public Health for St. Louis County, Dr. Kanika Cunningham:
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