UHealth - University of Miami Health System

Firdaus Dhabhar

General Information

Firdaus  Dhabhar


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  • English


  • Member, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Clinical Interests

  • Harnessing fight-or-flight stress physiology to enhance immunity during surgery, vaccination, immunotherapy and cancer treatment.
  • Ameliorating the deleterious effects of chronic stress.
  • Investigating immune mechanisms in the context of psychiatric disorders

Research 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.


Curt Richter Award for Excellence In Psychoneuroendocrinology, International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology
Young Investigator Award, PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society
Distinguished Dissertation Award, Council of Graduate Schools


Biomedical Sciences - The Rockefeller University, New York, NY.
Biological Sciences - Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.
Government - Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.



Dr. Dhabhar is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.  He previously worked at Stanford University where he was a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry, The Institute for Immunity, The Neurosciences Institute, and The Cancer Institute. He was also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Innovation In Global Health at Stanford.

Dr. Dhabhar’s laboratory investigates the effects of stress on immune function 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 that could be harnessed to enhance biological defense mechanisms, and cognitive and physical performance. He is working on harnessing this system clinically to boost protective immune responses during surgery, vaccination, and cancer. In addition to investigating the protective aspects of short-term stress physiology, 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 collaborators, Dr. Dhabhar has become interested in developing practical and sustainable interventions to minimize “bad” stress and maximize “good” stress, in order to promote health, healing, and emotional well-being. He believes that activities/interventions involving sleep, exercise, and nutrition, psychosocial factors, and activities such as meditation, yoga, art, music, nature walks, fishing, that reduce bad stress, are likely to increase well-being, enhance the protective effects of good stress, and to facilitate kind and caring behavior at the level of the individual and society. Therefore, his interests extend from stress-related molecular and cellular mechanisms, to their holistic physiological functions in individuals, to their implications for public policy, government, and societal well-being.

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 (H-Index = 61) that have been widely appreciated, 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, The Miami Herald, 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 from elementary school to seniors, and has made numerous national and international presentations on different facets of his research.