In Memoriam: Dr. William 'Billy' Cunningham

A National Leader in Addressing Racial/Ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities Among Vulnerable Populations

In Memoriam: Dr. William

UCLA faculty, students and staff in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research in the UCLA School of Medicine and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health are mourning the loss of William “Billy” Cunningham, who was a professor of Medicine and Public Health. Billy died Thursday, January 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. He was 60 years old.

A fierce advocate for improving the health of underrepresented communities, Billy was a national leader in studies designed to improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum. After receiving his bachelor’s degree at Brown University in 1982 and graduating from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine in 1987, he came to UCLA to complete his internal medicine residency training. He was then selected into the 1991 cohort of the UCLA Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar Program and completed a masters in public health from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health before joining our faculty in both the Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

Billy had incredible passion and energy and was a national leader in addressing racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities among vulnerable populations living with, or at-risk of, HIV. Most recently he was working to improve HIV care for HIV+ men and transgender women released from Los Angeles County Jail. “Billy was a true friend, colleague, teacher, clinician, and researcher and will be deeply missed by so many of us” said Carol Mangione, Chief of the UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research.

As Director of the UCLA Clinical Translational Science Institute TL1 Summer Fellowship Program, Co-Director of the Investigator Development Core for the NIA-funded Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research, Director of the Training Core for the NIMHD-funded Project Export, and as Associate Director of the UCLA Robert Wood Johnson/National Clinical Scholars Program at UCLA, Billy was instrumental in the mentoring of hundreds of trainees, most of whom were from under-represented minority groups aspiring to enter the medical and/or public health professions. “He will be remembered as an amazing scholar, and an incredibly popular teacher” said Dean Kelsey Martin.

Billy also taught graduate-level courses on racial disparities and health, health services organization, and outcomes and effectiveness research. “This is a great loss for his family, his community, and our department,” said Alan Fogelman, Department Chair and Professor of Medicine. “He was a beloved colleague and a true example of clinical scientist and teacher.”

Despite numerous health setbacks over the past year, he continued to be there for his family and to remain passionately engaged in his research which always focused on how to improve care for some of the most vulnerable among us. At the time of his demise, he was a principal investigator for 3 research grants and authored numerous peer-reviewed publications in 2019. Billy is survived by his wife, Sharon and their two young sons, Emery and Kendi.

UCLA will hold a public memorial service Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 10:00 am to noon at the Luskin Conference Center followed by lunch from noon to 2:00 pm on the Terrace to honor Billy and his profound contributions to our division and the field of HIV care, prevention, and health equity.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to one of Billy’s research partners, the Center for Health Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving individuals with a history of incarceration by providing health education and supportive services.

Any remembrances of Billy can be sent to the family at: c/o Dr. Carol Mangione, 1100 Glendon Ave., Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA 90024.