Navigate Up
Sign In

The Rush Craniofacial Center is a multidisciplinary craniomaxillofacial center with an internationally recognized faculty. The center offers state-of-the-art care for patients with congenital and acquired craniomaxillofacial disorders. Common diagnoses for patients include cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis, hemifacial microsomia, jaw and dental disorders, malocclusion, functional speech disorders, ear anomalies, nasal and airway problems, vascular malformations, acute and chronic traumatic facial injuries, and tumors of the head and neck.

 Under the leadership of Dr. Christina Tragos and Dr. Alvaro Figueroa, co-directors of the Rush Craniofacial Center, we specialize in the treatment of complex craniofacial conditions. Complicated patients are evaluated and managed by a multidisciplinary team for diagnosis and long-term care for children with craniofacial anomalies. The most comprehensive center in the Chicagoland area, the Rush University Craniofacial Center, includes a craniofacial orthodontist, craniofacial plastic surgeon, pediatric otolaryngologist, speech pathologist, audiologist, neurosurgeon, geneticist, ophthalmologist, pediatrician, pediatric anesthesiologist, social worker, psychologist and others as required.



Alvaro A. Figueroa, DDS, MS, is a dentist with specialty training in orthodontics and pediatric dentistry. He is co-director of the Rush Craniofacial Center in Chicago. His clinical and research interests are in craniofacial anomalies, with emphasis in orthodontic and surgical management, treatment results and craniofacial growth and development. His interest in the field started in 1976 when he did a fellowship in the Craniofacial Anomalies Section, National Institute of Dental Research in Bethesda, Md. He was the last orthodontic fellow of the late Samuel Pruzansky.

He has dedicated his entire professional and academic career to treating and learning about patients with clefts and craniofacial anomalies. He is a member of various professional associations including the American Association of Orthodontists, American Cleft Palate Craniofacial Association and International Society of Craniofacial Surgeons. He serves as a reviewer for various professional journals. He was a member of Council for the American Cleft Palate Craniofacial Association, was chairman of the Research Grants Committee and has participated in other committees. He is a member of the Medical Advisory Board for the Smile Train.
He has participated in various overseas treatment trips to help children with clefts and other craniofacial deformities, including Central America, the Caribbean, South America and Asia. He participates as an adviser for orthodontic graduate student thesis projects, has published over 95 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and lectures nationally and internationally. He was recipient of the "Best Paper of the Year" by the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery in 1997 as well as the Dewel Award from the editorial board of the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics in 1998. Through extensive clinical experience he and his partner of over 20 years, John W. Polley, MD, have developed distraction techniques that are used in the management of patients with maxillary and midface hypoplasia.

Alexander L. Figueroa, DMD, received his doctor of dental medicine degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition, Figueroa obtained an orthodontics specialty certificate and a certificate in temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Eastman Institute for Oral Health in Rochester, N.Y. Figueroa is actively involved in orthodontic and craniofacial research.

Nicole received her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Rush University in 2015. She received her bachelors in nursing in 2010 from the University of Michigan. She has always pursued a career in pediatrics and provides family-centered care for each individual patient. She is the Nurse Practitioner and coordinator of the craniofacial center.

  • Pediatric Otolaryngology
  • Otolaryngology
Board Certification:
  • Otolaryngology
Faculty Rank: Assistant Professor
Medical or Graduate Education: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Residency: Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Otolaryngology
Fellowship: Children's Hospital of Wisconsin - Pediatric Otolaryngology
Clinical Expertise:
  • Airway disorders, pediatric
  • Bronchoscopy, pediatric
  • Ear infection
  • Ear surgery
  • Hemangiomas
  • Laryngeal surgery
  • Nasal and sinus disorders, pediatric
  • Nasal and sinus surgery, pediatric
  • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis
  • Sleep apnea, pediatric
  • Snoring
  • Supraglottoplasty
  • Thyroglossal duct cyst
  • Tracheal surgery
  • Vascular malformations

  • Genetics
  • Pathology
  • Clinical Cytogenetics
  • Pediatrics
Board Certification:
  • Clinical Genetics
  • Clinical Cytogenetics
Faculty Rank: Professor
Medical or Graduate Education: Rush Medical College
Residency: University of Chicago Children's Hospital - Pediatrics
Fellowship: Advocate Lutheran General Hospital - Clinical Genetics
Clinical Expertise:
  • Breast cancer
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Down syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Genetic disorders
  • Genetic testing
  • Huntington's disease
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta

Neurological Surgery ( Primary Specialty )
Board Certifications
Neurological Surgery
Faculty Rank
Assistant Professor
Medical School:
Ponce School of Medicine, Puerto Rico
University of Illinois Medical Center
Children's Memorial Hospital
University of Illinois Medical Center
Clinical Expertise
Acoustic neuroma
Brain aneurysm
Brain tumor
Chiari malformation
Metastatic brain cancer
Neurosurgery, endoscopic
Neurosurgery, pediatric
Pituitary tumor
Sinus and skull base tumors
Spinal tumor
Vascular malformations
Languages Spoken



  • Child Psychology, Clinical
  • Psychology, Clinical
Board Certification:
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Brazelton Examiner
Faculty Rank: Associate Professor
Medical or Graduate Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Fellowship: University of Massachusetts - Neonatal Psychophysiology
Clinical Expertise:
  • Brazelton neonatal neurobehavioral assessment
  • Gifted children
  • Intellectual assessment
  • Learning disabilities
  • Neurodevelopmental assessment
  • Neuropsychological assessment
Research Interests:
  • Prevention of disability in high-risk premature infants
  • Neurobehavioral dysfunction in children with CNS injury
  • Neurocognitive factors in craniofacial and other congenital syndromes
  • Evaluation of pharmacological treatment of fragile X children
  • Assessment of gifted and talented children


Laura Pabalan, MD, is a board-certified general pediatrician at the Rush Pediatric Center. She received her medical degree at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, FL and did her pediatric residency training at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, WI. Her interests include general pediatrics and health disparities. She is fluent in Spanish and English.


Karen Tessler Ph.D., CCC-SLP is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Communication Disorders and Sciences in the Rush University College of Health Science as well as in the Dept. of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Rush Medical College. She was Manager of Clinical Education for 9 years in the program of speech language pathology and continues to teach the coursework in Craniofacial Anomalies. She is the discipline coordinator for the University of Illinois LEND program which trains future leaders in the areas of advocacy, research, community engagement, and clinical skills for graduate students who plan to work with people with disabilities. She is also a member of the Rush Center for Interprofessionalism. Dr. Tessler has presented at local meetings and national conferences on the topics of craniofacial anomalies, clinical education and supervision.

Dr. Tessler received her masters and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She is currently the speech language pathologist at the Rush Craniofacial Center seeing patients at the Team Meetings as well as for individual assessment and treatment. 



  • Plastic Surgery
Faculty Rank: Assistant Professor
Medical or Graduate Education: University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago
Residency: Rush University Medical Center - Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Fellowship: University of Washington Medical Center - Craniofacial Surgery
Clinical Expertise:
  • Blepharoplasty
  • Botulinum toxin injections
  • Breast surgery, cosmetic
  • Cleft lip
  • Cleft palate
  • Craniofacial microsomia
  • Craniofacial surgery
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Dermal filler treatments
  • Facelift
  • Facial rejuvenation
  • Facial trauma
  • Fat transfer
  • Mandibulofacial dysostosis
  • Orthognathic surgery
  • Plastic surgery, pediatric
  • Rhinoplasty


Patients are referred to the Rush Craniofacial Center to be seen by our team of specialists. They may present with many different conditions, among these are:

  • Distraction osteogenesis
  • Craniofacial syndromes (Apert's, Crouzon's, Pfeiffer's, Klebbatschadel [clover-leaf skull], Saethre-Chotzen's, median facial cleft)
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Dentofacial anomalies (congenital cleft-related, congenital noncleft-related, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, tumors and vascular conditions)
  • Micrognathia and Pierre Robine sequence
  • Hemifacial microsomia
  • Mandibulofacial dysostosis
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Acute and chronic traumatic anomalies
  • Orthodontic anomalies

Things our Center offers:

  • Craniofacial Surgery
    • Our craniofacial surgery team provides state of the art care for common and rare craniofacial anomalies.
  • 3D imaging + Virtual Surgical Planning in office
    • We use 3D images of children’s face and skull and apply virtual surgical planning to plan treatment for surgery.
  • Cone beam in office
    • We have a specialized in office CT scanner that produces 3D images of your teeth, soft tissues to aid with diagnosis and planning of craniofacial surgery.
  • Craniofacial Orthodontics (Figueroa Orthodontics)
    • Nasoalveolar molding (NAM)
      • Orthodontic device to help shape and improve the position of the nose for babies with cleft lip and palate.
    • Orthodontic Appliances
      • We provide many different types of orthodontic appliances including palatal expandsers, positioners, retainers, spacers, temporary anchorage device, and protraction facemasks.  
    • Pre-surgical orthodontics for bone grafting, orthognathic surgery. 
      • Our orthodontists provide all treatment phases of care for children and adults with craniofacial conditions. Orthodontic care is coordinated with surgical team in preparation for future surgeries. 
  • Prenatal Counseling
    • For mothers with a recent diagnosis of a craniofacial anomaly, we provide pre-natal consults to discuss the child’s diagnosis, plan for delivery, discuss surgical timing, and clarification of information.
  • Plagiocephaly clinic  
    • Our Craniofacial center has a specialized clinic to evaluate and treat positional plagiocephaly. This clinic determines which children would benefit from helmet therapy, require additional imaging, or can benefit from home therapy techniques. This clinic is run by our Nurse Practitioner Nicole Heller, DNP, FNP-C.
  • Craniofacial Speech clinic
    • The Craniofacial Center offers speech and language services to patients with a focus on articulation, feeding and resonance evaluation and therapy related to craniofacial anomalies. This clinic is run by Karen Tessler, PhD.
  • Feeding therapy
    • We are here to provide help for feeding advice, and evaluate and provide medical expertise for children with cleft lip and palate. We have several specialized bottles available in our office. We work closely with Erin Miller, MS CCC-SLP to provide feeding and swallowing therapy to children who require extra assistance.
  • Aerodigestive clinic
    • We work closely in collaboration with the aerodigestive clinic at Rush where they provide coordinated care for complication airway, swallowing, and feeding disorders.

Photos And Videos

Accreditation and Recognition

Rush Craniofacial Center
1725 W. Harrison St.
Professional Building I
Suite 425
Chicago, IL 60612
Phone: (312) 563-3000
Fax: (312) 563-2514
Driving Directions

Practice Resources

Forgot MyChart Username? Forgot Password?
Additional Practice Information