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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 Heller, DNP, FNP-C, 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.

Jill S. Jeffe, MD, is the Director of the Pediatric Aerodigestive Program, the Assistant Director of the Otolaryngology Residency Program, the Head of the Section of Pediatric Otolaryngology, and an Assistant Professor of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. She completed medical school at Northwestern University, her residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Northwestern University, and her fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Jeffe is board-certified in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. She has many clinical interests in diseases of the head and neck in children, with special emphasis on pediatric airway stenosis, endoscopic airway surgery, laryngotracheal reconstruction, vascular anomalies, chronic sinusitis, chronic ear disease and sleep apnea. She belongs to several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology, and the Society for Ear, Nose and Throat Advances in Children.


Carolyn Jones, MD, PhD, is the Director of the Section of Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rush Medical College. She completed medical school at Rush Medical College, her residency at the University of Chicago Children's Hospital, and her fellowship at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. She has clinical expertise in breast cancer, cardiomyopathy, colorectal cancer, Down Syndrome, fragile X syndrome, genetic disorders, genetic testing, Huntington's disease, Marfan Syndrome, and osteogenesis imperfecta.

Lorenzo Munoz, MD, completed medical school at Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico, his residency at the University of Illinois Medical Center, and his fellowships at Children's Memorial Hospital and the University of Illinois Medical Center. He is board certified in Neurological Surgery and has clinical expertise in acoustic neuroma, brain aneurysm, brain tumor, Chiari malformations, hydrocephalus, medulloblastoma, meningioma, metastatic brain cancer, endoscopic neurosurgery, pediatric neurosurgery, pituitary tumors, sinus and skull base tumors, spinal tumors, and vascular malformations. He also speaks Spanish.


Michael Nelson, PhD, is the Chief of the Section of Psychology in the Department of Pediatrics and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rush Medical College. He completed his graduate education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his fellowship at the University of Massachusetts. Nelson has clinical expertise in Brazelton neonatal neurobehavioral assessment, gifted children, intellectual assessment, learning disabilities, neurodevelopmental assessment, and neuropsychological assessment. His research areas include prevention of disability in high-risk premature infants, neurobehavioral dysfunction in children with central nervous system injuries, neurocognitive factors in craniofacial and other congenital syndromes, evaluation of pharmacological treatment of children with fragile X syndrome, and 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 both the Dept. of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Rush Medical College as well as in the Dept. of Communication Disorders and Sciences in the Rush University College of Health Science.  Dr. Tessler has been manager of clinical education for the Program of Speech Language Pathology and is a member of the Rush Craniofacial Center.  She is the Discipline Coordinator for Speech Language Pathology at the UIC Illinois LEND program. She currently serves as the Dean of the Blitstein Institute of Hebrew Theological College - Touro College and University System . 
Dr. Tessler received her BA from Northeastern Illinois University. She earned her MA and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  She has presented at state and national conferences on the topics of innovative education practices, craniofacial anomalies, clinical care, and student supervision.





Christina Tragos, MD, completed medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, her residency at Rush University Medical Center, and her fellowship at the University of Washington Medical Center. She specializes in plastic surgery with clinical expertise in blepharoplasty, botulinum toxin injections, cosmetic breast surgery, cleft lip, cleft palate, craniofacial microsomia, craniofacial surgery, craniosynostosis, dermal filler treatments, facelift, facial rejuvenation, facial trauma, fat transfer, madibulofacial dysostosis, orthognathic surgery, pediatric plastic surgery, and 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 expanders, 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.

Make an appointment

To make an appointment, please call our office at 312-563-3000. If you would like to make a craniofacial team appointment please specify that when you call. If you have any questions about scheduling or would like to learn more about the Rush Craniofacial Team please call 312-563-3000 and ask to speak to the team coordinator, Nicole Heller, DNP, FNP-C.


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