Christopher Cunniff, M.D.
Dr. Cunniff welcomes the opportunity to work with patients, families and referring physicians to diagnose and treat children and young adults with genetic and non-genetic syndromes, particularly those associated with birth defects and developmental disabilities. He likes to educate and empower patients and families with rare disorders to be effective advocates for their medical care. He recognizes that patients with these conditions often require medical treatment from multiple specialty physicians, and he strives to connect them with an effective team of providers.
Dr. Cunniff received his medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 1984. He completed a Pediatrics residency at the University of Vermont and a fellowship in Dysmorphology and Clinical Genetics at the University of California San Diego. He has previously served as Division Chief of Genetics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and at the University of Arizona.
As a clinical geneticist, Dr. Cunniff has a longstanding interest in the care of children and young adults with chromosome abnormalities, genetic disorders, birth defects and developmental disabilities. He has been a Principal Investigator for grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to perform surveillance for muscular dystrophy, Fetal Alcohol syndrome, autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability, and he has published extensively on these disorders.
Dr. Cunniff has assumed national leadership roles in genetics. He has served as the Chairperson of the Committee on Genetics of the American Academy of Pediatrics, as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Secretary of the American College of Medical Genetics and as President of the American Board of Medical Genetics.
During his career in education, Dr. Cunniff has been an advocate for education and training of medical students, residents and attending physicians. At the University of Arizona he served as Director of Faculty Instructional Development, where he developed programs to assist fellow faculty members to be effective teachers, preceptors and mentors. He maintains a strong interest in general and genetic specialty education, and he presents regularly on these topics.
- Pettygrove S, Lu Z, Andrews JG, Meaney FJ, Sheehan DW, Fox DJ, Pandya S, Ouyang L, Apkon SD, Powis Z, Cunniff C. Sibling concordance for clinical features of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy. Muscle Nerve, In press.
- Maenner MJ, Rice CE, Arneson CL, Cunniff C, Schieve LA, Carpenter LA, Van Naarden Braun K, Kirby RS, Bakian AV, Durkin MS. Potential impact of DSM-5 criteria on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) prevalence estimates. JAMA Psychiatr In press.
- Nabukera SK, Romitti PA, Caspers KM, Street N, Cunniff C, Mathews KD, Fox DJ, Puzhankara S, Ciafaloni E, James K, Su Y. Reproductive patterns among mothers of males diagnosed with Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy. Am J Med Genet Part A 2013; 161A:71-75.
- Daack-Hirsch S, Holtzer C, Cunniff C. Parental perspectives on the diagnostic process for Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy. Am J Med Genet Part A, 2013;161:687-695.
- Maenner MJ, Schieve LA, Rice CE, Cunniff C, Giarelli E, Kirby RS, Lee LC, Nicholas JS, Wingate MS, Durkin MS. Frequency and pattern of documented diagnostic features and the age of autism identification. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2013;52:401-413.
- Barber BJ, Andrews JG, Lu Z, West N, Meaney FJ, Gray A, Sheehan DW, Pandya S, Yang M, Cunniff C. Oral corticosteroids and delayed onset of cardiomyopathy in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. J Pediatr, 2013;163:1080-1084.
- Pedersen y Arbona A, Pettygrove S, Meaney FJ, Mancilla K, Gotschall K, Kessler DB, Grebe TA, Cunniff C. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in Hispanic and non-Hispanic white children. Pediatrics 2012; 129:e629-e635.
- Nabukera S, Romitti P, Campbell K, Meaney JF, Caspers K, Mathews K, Sherlock SH, Puzhankara S, Cunniff C, Druschel C, Pandya S, Matthews D, Ciafaloni E. Use of complementary and alternative medicine by males with Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy. J Child Neurol 2012; 27:734-740.
- Kalkbrenner AE, Braun JM, Durkin MS, Maenner MJ, Cunniff C, Lee LC, Pettygrove S, Nicholas JS, Daniels JL. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders using data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network. Environ Health Perspect 2012; 120(7):1042-1048.
- Rieder MJ, Green GE, Johnson JM, Cunniff CM, Stamper BD, Park SS, Smith JD, Emery SB, Bamshad MJ, Nickerson DA, Cox TC, Hing AV, Horst JA, Cunningham ML. A human homeotic transformation resulting from mutations in PLCB4 and GNAI3 causes auriculocondylar syndrome. Am J Hum Genet 2012; 90:907-914.
- Tully H, Dempsey J, Ishak G, Adam M, Curry CJR, Sanchez-Lara P, Hunter A, Gripp KW, Allanson J, Cunniff C, Glass I, Millen K, Doherty D, Dobyns W. Beyond Gómez-López-Hernández syndrome: rhombencephalosynapsis as a developmental field defect. Am J Med Genet Part A 2012; 158A(10):2393-2406.
- Arias R, Andrews J, Pandya S, Pettit K, Trout C, Apkon S, Karwoski J, Cunniff C, Matthews D, Miller T, Davis MF, Meaney FJ. Palliative care services in families of males with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Muscle Nerve 2011;44:93-101.
- Holtzer C, Meaney FJ, Andrews J, Ciafaloni E, Fox DJ, James KA, Lu Z, Miller L, Pandya S, Ouyang L, Cunniff C. Disparities in the diagnostic process of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy. Genet Med 2011;13:942-947.
- Rice C, Baio J, Van Naarden Braun K, Doernberg N, Washington A, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Mervis C, Pettygrove S, Cunniff C, et al. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in four areas of the US over three time periods. Disabil Health J 2010;3:186-201.
- Matthews DJ, James KA, Miller LA, Pandya S, Campbell KA, Ciafaloni E, Mathews KD, Miller TM, Cunniff C, Meaney FJ, Druschel CM, Romitti PA, Fox DJ. Use of corticosteroids in individuals with dystrophinopathy. J Child Neurol 2010;25:1319-1324.
- Schieve LA, Baio J, Rice CE, Durkin M, Kirby RS, Crews-Botsch C, Miller LA, Nicholas JS, Cunniff CM. Risk for cognitive deficit in a population-based sample of US children with autism spectrum disorders: variation by perinatal health factors. Disabil Health J 2010;3:202-212.
- Levy SE, Giarelli E, Lee L-C, Schieve L, Kirby RS, Cunniff C, Nicholas J, Reaven J, Rice CE. Autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring developmental, psychiatric, and medical conditions among children in multiple populations of the United States. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2010;31:267-275.
- Mathews K, Cunniff C, Kantamneni J, et al. Muscular dystrophy surveillance tracking and research network (MD STARnet): case definition in surveillance for childhood-onset Duchenne/Becker muscular dystrophy. J Child Neurol 2010;25:1098-1102.
- Cunniff C, Andrews J, Meaney FJ, Mathews KD, Matthews D, Ciafaloni E, Miller TM, Bodensteiner JB, Miller LA, James KA, Druschel CM, Romitti PA, Pandya S. Mutation analysis in a population-based cohort of boys with Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy. J Child Neurol 2009;24:425-430.
- Shattuck P, Durkin M, Maenner M, Newschaffer C, Mandell D, Wiggins L, Lee L-C, Rice C, Giarelli E, Kirby R, Baio J, Pinto-Martin J, Cunniff C. Timing of identification among children with an autism spectrum disorder: findings from a population-based surveillance study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2009;48:474-483.
- Ciafaloni E, Fox DJ, Pandya S, Westfield CP, Puzhankara S, Romitti PA, Mathews KA, Miller TM, Matthews DJ, Miller LA, Cunniff C, Druschel CM, Moxley RT. Delayed diagnosis in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: data from the Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance, Tracking, and Research Network. J Pediatr 2009;155:380-385.
- Durkin MS, Maenner MJ, Newschaffer CJ, Lee LC, Cunniff CM, Daniels JL, Kirby RS, Leavitt L, Miller L, Zahorodny W, Schieve LA. Advanced parental age and the risk of autism spectrum disorder. Am J Epidemiol 2008;168:1268-1276. Advance Access published October 21, 2008, doi:10.1093/aje/kwn250.
- Allanson JE, Cunniff C, Hoyme HE, McGaughran J, Muenke M, Neri G. Defining morphology: head and face. Am J Med Genet Part A 2008;149A:6-28.
- Berg JS, Brunetti-Pierri N, Peters SU, Kang SHL, Fong C, Salamone J, Freedenberg D, Gannig VL, Prock LA, Miller DT, Raffalli P, Harris DJ, Erickson RP, Cunniff C, et al. Speech delay and autism spectrum behaviors are frequently associated with duplication of the 7q11.23 Williams-Beuren syndrome region. Genet Med 2007:9;427-441.
- Miller LA, Romitti PA, Cunniff C, et al. The Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance Tracking and Research Network (MD STARnet) surveillance methodology. Birth Defects Research (Part A). 2006:76:793-797
- Lin AE, Forrester MB, Cunniff C, Higgins CA, Anderka M. Clinician reviewers in Birth Defects Surveillance Programs: survey of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. Birth Defects Research (Part A). 2006:76:781-786.
- Storm AL. Johnson JM. Lammer E. Green GE. Cunniff C. Auriculo-condylar syndrome is associated with highly variable ear and mandibular defects in multiple kindreds. Am J Med Genet (Part A). 2005;138:141-145.
- Manning MA, Cunniff, CM, Colby E, El-Sayed YY, Hoyme HE. Neu-Laxova Syndrome: detailed prenatal diagnostic and post-mortem findings and literature review. Am J Med Genet 2004;125A:240-249
- Rice C, Doernberg N, Cunniff C, Schendel D. Public health surveillance of developmental disabilities, including the autism spectrum disorders. Am J Med Genet Part C 2004;125C:22-27.
- Leppig KA, Sybert VP, Ross JL, Cunniff C, et al. Phenotype and X inactivation in 45,X/46,X,r(X) cases. Am J Med Genet 2004;128A:276-284.
- Wang LI, Gannavarapu A, Kozinetz CA, Levy ML, Lewis R, Chintagumpala MM, Ruiz-Maldonado R, Contreras-Ruiz J, Cunniff C, Erickson RP, Lev D, Rogers M, Zackai EH, Plon S. Association between osteosarcoma with deleterious mutations in the RECQL4 gene in Rothmund-Thomson syndrome. J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:669-674.
- Holve S, Friedman B, Hoyme HE, Tarby TJ, Johnstone SJ, Erickson RP, Clericuzio CL, Cunniff C. Athabascan brainstem dysgenesis syndrome. Am J Med Genet 2003;120A:169-173.
- Meaney FJ, Miller LA, et al. A comparison of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome surveillance network and birth defect surveillance methodology in determining prevalence rates of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Birth Defects Research Part A 2003;1-3.
- Hymbaugh K, Miller LA, Druschel CM, et al. A multiple source methodology for the surveillance of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Surveillance Network (FASSNet). Teratology 2002;66:S41-S49.
- Miller L, Tolliver R, Druschel C, Fox D, Schoellhorn J, Podvin D, Merrick S, Cunniff C, Meaney FJ, et al. Preliminary Fetal Alcohol Syndrome prevalence – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Surveillance Network, 1995-1997. MMWR 2002;51:433-435.
- Pujol LA, Erickson RP, Heidenreich RA, Cunniff C. Variable presentation of Rothmund-Thomson syndrome. Am J Med Genet 2000;95:204-207.
- Cunniff C, Curtis M, Hassed SJ, Hoyme HE. Blepharophimosis: a causally heterogeneous malformation frequently associated with developmental disabilities. Am J Med Genet 1998;75:52-54..
- Villegas-Camargo I, de la Cruz-Casamiro E, Cunniff C, Jones KL. Amputación prenatal del pie en un recién nacido causado por bridas amnióticas. Boletín médico del Hospital Infantil de México 1998;55:94-97.
- Bridge M, Iden S, Cunniff C, Meaney FJ. Improving access to and utilization of genetic services in Arizona’s Hispanic population. Community Genet 1998;1:166-168.
- Cunniff C, Kratz LE, Moser A, Natowicz MR, Kelley RI. The clinical and biochemical spectrum of patients with the RSH/Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome and abnormal cholesterol metabolism. Am J Med Genet 1997;68:263-269.
- Lin AE, Ardinger H, Ardinger R, Cunniff C, Kelley RI. Congenital cardiovascular malformations in the Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. Am J Med Genet 1997;68:270-278.
- Hassed S, Shewmake K, Teo C, Cunniff C, Curtis M. Shprintzen-Goldberg syndrome with osteopenia and progressive hydrocephalus. Am J Med Genet 1997;70:450-453.
- Curry CJ, Stevenson RE, Aughton D, Byrne J, Carey JC, Cassidy S, Cunniff C, et al. Evaluation of mental retardation: recommendations of a consensus conference. Am J Med Genet 1997;72:468-477.
- Rickert VI, Hassed SJ, Hendon AE, Cunniff C. The effects of peer ridicule on depression and self-image among adolescent females with Turner syndrome. J Adol Health 1996;19:34-38.
- Cunniff C, Hassed SJ, Hendon AE, Rickert VI. Health care utilization and perceptions of health among adolescents and adults with Turner syndrome. Clin Genet 1995;48:17-22.
- Cunniff C, Carmack JL, Kirby RS, Fiser DH. Contribution of heritable disorders to mortality in the pediatric intensive care unit. Pediatrics 1995;95:678-681.
- Sawyer JR, Swanson CM, Wheeler G, Cunniff C. Chromosome instability in ICF syndrome; formation of micronuclei from multibranched chromosomes 1 demonstrated by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Am J Med Genet 1995;56:203-209.
- Cunniff C, Williamson-Kruse L. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, type VIII presenting with periodontitis and prolonged bleeding time. Clin Dysmorphol 1995;4:145-149.
- Penny LA, Dell'Aquila M, Jones MC, Bergoffen J, Cunniff C, Fryns JP, Grace E, Graham JM, Kousseff B, Mattina T, Syme J, Voullaire L, Zelante L, Zenger-Hain J, Jones OW, Evans GA. Clinical and molecular characterization of patients with distal 11q deletions. Am J Hum Genet 1995;56:676-683.
- Hudome SM, Kirby RS, Senner JW, Cunniff C. The contribution of genetic disorders to neonatal mortality in a regional intensive care setting. Am J Perinatol 1994;11:100-103.
- Cunniff C, Kirby RS, Senner JW, Canino C, Brewster MA, Butler B, Hassed SJ, Murphy P. Deaths associated with renal agenesis: a population-based study of birth prevalence, case ascertainment and etiologic heterogeneity. Teratology 1994;50:200-204.
- Sawyer JR, Jones E, Hawks FF, Quirk JG, Cunniff C. Duplication and deletion of chromosome band 2(p21p22) resulting from a familial interstitial insertion (2;11)(p21;p15). Am J Med Genet 1994;49:422-427.
- Hintz S, Chueh J, Barth R, Cunniff C, Hudgins L. Prenatal diagnosis and counseling. In Neonatalogy: Clinical Practice and Procedural Atlas. Stevenson DK, Sunshine P, Cohen RS, Van Meurs K, eds. McGraw Hill, New York, NY; In press.
- Cunniff C, Griffin KJ. Disorders of sexual development. In Signs and Symptoms of Genetic Disease. Hoyme HE, Hudgins L, Toriello H, eds. Elsevier, Inc. Philadelphia, PA. In press.
- Cunniff C, Hennekam R. Smith Lemli Opitz syndrome. In Inherited Metabolic Disease in Adults, Part A, Metabolic Pathways and Their Disorders in Adults; Section 7, Cholesterol Synthesis Disorders. Lachmann R, Hollak CEM, Sedel F, eds. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. In press.
- Cunniff C. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. In Management of Genetic Syndromes Third Edition. Cassidy SB and Allanson J, eds. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY 2010; 727-738
- Cunniff C. Teratogens. In Gorlin’s Syndromes of the Head and Neck, 4th edition. Hennekam R, Allanson J, Krantz I, eds. Oxford University Press, New York 2010;25-48
- Schendel DS, Rice CA, Cunniff C. The contribution of rare diseases to understanding the epidemiology of neurodevelopmental disabilities. In Rare Diseases Epidemiology. Posada M and Groft C, eds. Springer, New York, NY 2010; 433-456.
- Cunniff, C. Genetic Disorders. In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology. Sarah Boslaugh, ed. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. 2008; Volume 1; 413-417.
- Cunniff C. Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome in: GeneReviews at GeneTests: Medical Genetics Information Resource [database online]. Copyright, University of Washington, Seattle. 1998-2007. Available at http://www.genetests.org
- Cunniff C, Grebe TA. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. In Management of Genetic Syndromes Second Edition. Cassidy SB and Allanson J, eds. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY 2004; 497-506.
- Cunniff C. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. In Management of Genetic Syndromes Cassidy SB and Allanson J, eds. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY 2001;349-362.
- Kurtzman TL, Cunniff C. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. GeneClinics (http://healthlinks.washington.edu/genline/) 1998.
- Cunniff C. Genetic disorders. In Adolescent Nutrition: Assessment and Management. Rickert VI, ed. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY, 1995, pp. 272-286.
Honors and Awards
Chairperson, Committee on Genetics, American Academy of Pediatrics
Member, Board of Directors, American College of Medical Genetics
Secretary, American College of Medical Genetics
Member, Board of Directors, American Board of Medical Genetics
President, American Board of Medical Genetics
- Medical Genetics
- Clinical Genetics
- Genetic Disorder
- Chromosomal Abnormality
- Birth Defect
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Contact and Practices
- Clinical Genetics
- Clinical Genetics (MD)
- B.A., University of Alabama, 1980
- M.D., University of Alabama School of Medicine, 1984