Investigator Profile

Michael L. Cunningham, MD, PhD

Dr. Cunningham is chief of the Division of Craniofacial Medicine and professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is medical director of Seattle Children’s Craniofacial Center and holds the Jean Renny Endowed Chair in Craniofacial Medicine. He is also adjunct professor in the Departments of Biological Structures, Oral Biology and Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Washington.

Dr. Cunningham balances responsibilities in administration, patient care and research. He does bedside teaching of medical students, pediatrics residents and dental students. His clinical interests focus on the diagnosis and long-term interdisciplinary care of children with craniofacial malformations, with a particular interest in craniosynostosis. He is co-investigator on several clinical research projects, ranging from the epidemiology of positional plagiocephaly to computer modeling of craniofacial conditions.

Funded through the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Dr. Cunningham’s basic molecular and developmental biology lab has been open since 1993 and is using human and mouse models to investigate the molecular causes of craniosynostosis and developmental pathogenesis of midface hypoplasia associated with syndromic craniosynostosis.

“The care of a single patient during residency made me realize that I enjoyed helping families work through the difficult time after the birth of a child with complex cleft and craniofacial disorders. After residency, I was given the unique opportunity to train in the longitudinal care of these patients and their families. Encouraged by my mentors, Drs. Ron Lemire and Sterling Clarren, I returned to graduate school to obtain a PhD in Anatomy and Embryology. Now, after this 20-year journey as a physician-scientist, I recognize that it is my patients, their families and my trainees who serve as my teachers. I am dedicated to the advancement of craniofacial research and our unique model of pediatric care for children born with these conditions.”

Medical/Professional School

University of Washington, Seattle
University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington


Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle


Birth Defects Fellowship, University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle

Clinical Interests

Diagnosis and management of craniofacial malformation syndromes

Research Description

Molecular developmental biology of craniosynostosis and other craniofacial conditions