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Firdaus Dhabhar

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Key Documents

Contact Information

  • Academic Offices
    Personal Information
    Email Tel (650) 736-8565
    Alternate Contact
    Tel Work 650 736 8565


Dr. Dhabhar is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and a member of the Cancer Institute, Immunology Institute, and Neuroscience Program at Stanford University. He specializes in studying the effects of stress on immunity and health. He was the first to discover mechanisms by which short-term stress physiology enhances the body's immune defenses to increase protection during a fight-or-flight response. He has proposed that fight-or-flight stress is generally “good” stress and represents one of Mother Nature's fundamental but under-appreciated survival systems. He is working on harnessing this system clinically to boost protective immune responses during surgery, vaccination, and cancer. Dr. Dhabhar also investigates mechanisms through which long-term or chronic stress increases chronic inflammation, accelerates immune cell aging, and has harmful effects on brain and body.

Working with colleagues at Stanford, UCSF, and UC Davis, Dr. Dhabhar has become keenly interested in developing practical and sustainable interventions to minimize “bad” stress and maximize “good” stress, in order to promote health and healing. He believes that activities/interventions (e.g. exercise, meditation, compassion, art, music) that reduce bad stress are likely to increase well-being and the protective effects of good stress, and to facilitate kind and caring behavior at the level of the individual and society.

Among Dr. Dhabhar's honors are the Council of Graduate Schools Distinguished Dissertation Award; the PsychoNeuroImmunology Society's Young Investigator Award for outstanding research; and the Richter Award for Excellence in Psychoneuroendocrinology. In addition to numerous highly-cited scientific publications, Dr. Dhabhar's work has been featured by many major media outlets including The New York Times, The Financial Times, USA Today, US News & World Report, Scientific American, ABC News, NBC News, and others. Dr. Dhabhar loves teaching and working with undergraduate and graduate students in the classroom and laboratory. He also enjoys interacting with diverse audiences of all ages, and has made numerous national and international presentations on different facets of his research.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Director of Research, Stanford Center on Stress & Health (2006 - present)
  • Adjunct Faculty, The Rockefeller University (1999 - present)

Honors and Awards

  • Curt Richter Award, for Excellence in Psychoneuroendocrinology, International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology (2011)
  • Young Investigator Award, PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society (2000)
  • Distinguished Dissertation Award - Life Sciences, Council of Graduate Schools (1997)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Elected Member of Board of Directors, PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society (2011 - 2014)
  • Scientific Affairs Committee, PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society (2013 - 2014)

Professional Education

Ph.D.: The Rockefeller University, Biomedical Sciences -- Neuroimmunology (1996)
AB: Dartmouth College, Biological Science (1990)
AB: Dartmouth College, Government (1990)

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Although stress has a bad reputation, the short-term, fight-or-flight stress response is nature's fundamental survival system. We are interested in elucidating biological mechanisms that mediate and differentiate the recently discovered immunoenhancing effects of short-term stress from the long-known immunosuppressive effects of chronic stress. We examine stress effects on leukocyte trafficking, innate/adaptive immunity, and cytokine gene/protein expression using models of skin immunity, vaccination, surgery, and cancer. By elucidating the mechanisms under investigation we hope to develop behavioral and/or pharmacologic interventions designed to harness a patient’s psycho-physiology to selectively enhance (during vaccination, surgery, infection, or cancer) or suppress (during inflammatory and autoimmune disease) an immune response depending on the clinical needs of the patient.




Prior Year Coursescourses of Firdaus Dhabhar



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