Dr. Matthew E. Cunningham has clinical interest in thoracic and lumbar spine care, including spinal deformity (scoliosis, flatback, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis) for adult and pediatric patients, and degenerative problems (stenosis, herniated discs, arthritis, instability) in adults. In consideration of each and every patient, he focuses on the discovery and refinement of less-invasive, less-painful, and less-disruptive ways to correct spinal pathology. This includes surgical solutions for acute spine problems (herniated disks, pinched nerves, radiculopathy) and chronic/degenerative problems (stenosis, spine arthritis, disk herniations, and spinal deformity).
With young scoliosis patients, Dr. Cunningham is sensitive to the need to maintain a normal child’s life as much as possible and works to minimize treatment and avoid surgery wherever other therapies promise success. With adult patients, he incorporates new, less-invasive techniques for surgery that result in smaller incisions, less pain, less abdominal disturbance, and reduced recovery time. Dr. Cunningham runs a basic science research lab, working on a spinal fusion technique that would eliminate surgery altogether, using an innovative injection instead. He also conducts clinical research and participates in two multi-center study groups to improve outcomes in pediatric (CSSG) and adult (ISSG) spine deformity surgical patients.
Currently, he is a volunteer surgeon for the Foundation for Orthopaedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS), a role which has taken him to countries such as Ghana and Sierra Leone in Africa, and Barbados in the West Indies, to provide surgical and non-surgical care to these underserved peoples.
Dr. Cunningham’s background is studded with academic honors and sports. He studied Biophysics at Johns Hopkins University and was recognized with several academic honors including induction into Phi Beta Kappa and being a Rhodes Scholar regional finalist. Throughout his years at Johns Hopkins, he competed in both varsity wrestling and football and was active on the University’s club rugby team. When not in the classroom or on the athletic field, he worked as a lifeguard captain at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park in Long Branch, NJ.
After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Cunningham attended Columbia University for both graduate and medical school. While there, he was a student with the National Institute of Health-funded Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and was recognized with many academic honors including induction into Alpha Omega Alpha and receiving the Alfred E. Steiner Research Award, the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research, and the Miriam Berkman Spotnitz Award. Dr. Cunningham was also recognized for his clinical excellence, winning the Virginia P. Apgar and New York Orthopaedic Hospital Awards.
Throughout his medical studies, Dr. Cunningham remained active in sports; he competed in lifeguard relays with the Borough of Bradley Beach, remained highly involved with Columbia’s "P&S" Rugby Club, and completed two New York City marathons.
Adult and pediatric scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylolisthesis, spondylolysis, and other spinal deformites
Complex multiplanar spinal deformity: anterior and/or posterior approaches, osteotomies, and vertebrectomy
Lumbar spine degenerative disease and arthritis: minimally invasive anterior fusion, posterior instrumental fusion
Spondylolisthesis, lumbar spine stenosis and instability: direct an indirect decompresson, alignment reduction, sacral transfixation
Surgical solutions for sciatica-type pain and weakness: microdiscectomy, laminectomy, decompression
North American Spine Society Young Investigator Research Grant Award
Philip D. Wilson Award for Excellence in Orthopaedic Surgery Research, Hospital for Special Surgery
Orthopaedic Fellowship Award, New York Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation
Emerging Leader Program, American Orthopaedic Association
Clinician Scientist Development Program, AAOS/OREF/ORS
New York Orthopedic Hospital Award for Outstanding Research & Clinical Performance, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University
Volunteer Surgeon, Foundation for Orthopaedics and Complex Spine
Member, North American Spine Society
Member, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Candidate Fellow, Scoliosis Research Society
Active Member, Orthopaedic Research Society
Complex Spine Study Group, Adolescent Subgroup
International Spine Study Group
Adult and pediatric anterior and/or posterior spinal fusions for surgical treatment of scoliosis, kyphosis, and spinal deformity
Thoracoplasty, osteotomy, vertebrectomy, posterior vertebral column resection for complex spinal deformity reconstruction
Anterior and/or posterior surgery for stenosis, herniated disks, degenerative disease, and arthritis, including decompression and/or fusion
Posterior lumbar microdiskectomy for herniated disks; posterior lumbar decompression for stenosis; anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), lateral access lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) posterior or transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF/TLIF), and posterolateral instrumented lumbar fusions for instability and end-stage arthritis of the spine
MD, PhD, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, 2000
New York Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, 2000-2001
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, 2001-2005
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, 2005-2007
Board Certified, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research, reviewer
Hospital for Special Surgery Journal, reviewer
Journal of Orthopaedic Research, reviewer
Arthritis Research & Therapy Journal, reviewer
Sheela D, Rosenberg TJ, Rawlins BA, Hidaka C, Ronald C, Boachie-Adjei O, Cunningham ME. Gene-Delivery Induced Intervertebral Disk Neoangiogenesis and Anterior Spine Fusion. (ORS Annual Meeting, Long Beach, CA, January 2011.)
Sheela D, Cunningham ME. Intervertebral Disk Organ Culture System: A Pilot Study Assessing In Situ Cell Viability. (ORS Annual Meeting, Long Beach, CA, January 2011.)
Kim HJ, Cunningham ME, Boatey J, Wright B, Mendelow MJ, Hess WF, Paonessa KJ, King AB, Yagi M, Boachie-Adjei O. (CSSG, FOCOS) Infection Rates for Spine Surgery in Underserved and Underdeveloped Nations: A Review of a Consecutive Series in a SRS Global Outreach Program in Africa. (IMAST Annual Meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 2011.)
Yagi M, King AB, Cunningham ME, Boachie-Adjei O. Clinical and radiographic Outcomes of Pedicle Subtraction Osteotomy (PSO) for Fixed Adult Sagittal Imbalance: Does Level of Proximal Fusion Affect Outcome? (Podium/paper #18, SRS Annual Meeting, Louisville, KY. September 2011.)
Cunningham ME. Percutaneous Gene-Delivery Mediated Intervertebral Body Fusion. (NASS Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, November 2011.)