Melanie T. Cushion, PhD
Melanie T. Cushion, PhD, is senior associate dean for research and professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, at the College of Medicine, and one of 50 Veterans Affairs (VA) senior research career scientists in
the country. She is an internationally recognized expert in the field of fungi, having researched fungal pathogens for more than 30 years.
Early in her career, Dr. Cushion began working with organisms referred to as Pneumocystis, the leading killer of patients with advanced HIV infection in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. At that time, these microbes were thought to be protozoans,
but her work with others in the college led to the discovery that they were actually fungal pathogens. She later initiated the Pneumocystis Genome Project, which helped to understand the metabolism and genetics of the fungus, and her laboratory was
the first to report Pneumocystis carinii possesses a linear mitochondrial genome.
Further work in her lab also showed that Pneumocystis were highly efficient in transmission of infection. Recent research by Dr. Cushion led to the identification of Pneumocystis sexual reproduction as a new drug target. Inhibition of this mode of reproduction
by the anti-fungal echinocandins resulted in prevention and eradication of Pneumocystis pneumonia, an entirely new paradigm.
Dr. Cushion’s research program has been funded since 1987 through more than $30 million in grants from the VA, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. She is a member of the Joint Program Committee-2 (JPC-2), the advisory
body to the JPC-2 Chair for the Defense Health Program Military Infectious Diseases Research Program, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) Program.
As senior associate dean since 2013, Dr. Cushion has established several internal grant programs, grant pre-review workshops and training sessions, symposia and recognition awards for College of Medicine research faculty and staff. She has mentored and
trained numerous graduate students, junior faculty, postdoctoral and infectious diseases fellows. In 2017, she was honored with the Antimicrobial Research Award from the American Society for Microbiology.