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Kathi L. Heffner, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Office: (585) 273-4786

Fax: (585) 273-1384

Faculty Appointments


Professional Background

Kathi Heffner is an Associate Professor of Nursing, Medicine, and Psychiatry, and the Associate Chief of Research in the Division of Geriatrics and Aging in the Department of Medicine. Her multidisciplinary and interprofessional collaborations and mentorship are aimed at supporting research initiatives that can ultimately foster individuals' health and well-being in later life.

Dr. Heffner's work has been supported by multiple organizational, NIH and other federally funded grants. Her growing leadership in aging research has been recognized locally and nationally, including as a selected scholar for the Tideswell UCSF Emerging Leaders in Aging Program. She is currently the Principal Investigator and Program Director for the Healthy Aging Research Program, supported by the UR Clinical Translational Science Institute, School of Nursing, and Department of Psychiatry.


My research centers on understanding the links between stress and health in older adulthood. I am particularly interested in how stress affects the immune system, and how to promote stress resilience to keep the immune system healthy at older ages. My scientific contributions fall into three areas: (1) implications of stress, including older family caregivers' stress, for healthy immune aging, (2) the influence of sleep and insomnia on stress physiology and inflammation, and (3) the role of social relationships in older adults' stress and stress resilience.

Across these areas, my goal is to identify behavioral interventions that can affect multiple domains of older adults' well-being, including mood and anxiety, cognitive function, pain, and risk for chronic aging-related diseases.



BA | University at Buffalo, State University of New York

PhD | University of Nevada, Reno
Social Psychology

Post-doctoral Training & Residency

2001 - 2003
Postdoctoral Fellowship in Psychoneuroimmunology, The Ohio State University


2017 - 2018
UCSF Tideswell Emerging Leaders in Aging, Leadership Scholar in Research

2015 - 2016
W. G. Stuber Research Fellowship Award
Sponsor: Office of the Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research
Location: University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Selected cohort member; Developing from Within
Sponsor: Mid-Level Academic Women's Leadership Program
Location: University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Excellence in Research Incentive Program Award
Sponsor: University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Citation Poster
Sponsor: American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting

Collier Research Award, First Place
Sponsor: Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester

Citation Poster
Sponsor: American Psychosomatic Society, Annual Meeting

Renewal award, National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program, Clinical Research Program
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health

Invitation and Honorarium for attendance
Sponsor: National Institute on Aging
Location: Opportunities for Advancing Behav & Social Research Workshop

Funding recipient, National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program, Clinical Research Program
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health

University International Council, International Travel Award
Sponsor: Ohio University

Faculty Development Award
Sponsor: College of Arts & Science, Ohio University

Social Psychology Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program Competitive Travel Award
Sponsor: University of Nevada, Reno

Graduate Student Association Annual Research Competition, Finalist
Sponsor: University of Nevada, Reno

Graduate Student Association (GSA) Merit Scholarship
Sponsor: University of Nevada, Reno

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Clinical Trials

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Family Caregivers of Dementia Patients

Lead Researcher: Kathi L Heffner

The purpose of the study is to examine the effects of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program and the Living Well (LW) for Dementia Caregivers program, compared to any usual care, to see if the programs might be associated with better immune function, physical and emotional health, and well-being. This study is looking for individuals age 55 and up who are caring for a loved one (such as a spouse, parent, close friend) who has dementia. Participation includes attending a weekly small group meeting over eight weeks for one of two study programs (determined randomly). Both programs address ways of improving physical and emotional well-being in the context of dementia caregiving. These 8-week programs typically begin in late August at Monroe Community Hospital.

View Study Details

Cognitive Training to Protect Immune Systems of Caregivers: The CTC Project

Lead Researcher: Kathi L Heffner

The purpose of the study is to determine whether two types of in-home “brain-training” programs may have beneficial health effects, including reduced stress and improved immune health, for individuals caring for a loved one (spouse, parent, friend, etc) who has dementia. Participation involves completing one of our brain training programs with the use of a computer at home a few times a week (when convenient for you), over eight weeks. Experience or skill with computers is not necessary. If you do not own a computer, one may be provided for you to use during the program period.

View Study Details


Journal Articles

Elliot AJ, Heffner KL, Mooney CJ, Moynihan JA, Chapman BP. "Social Relationships and Inflammatory Markers in the MIDUS Cohort: The Role of Age and Gender Differences." Journal of aging and health.. 2018 Jul 0; 30(6):904-923. Epub 2017 Mar 20.

Gallegos AM, Crean HF, Pigeon WR, Heffner KL. "Meditation and yoga for posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials." Clinical psychology review.. 2017 Dec 0; 58:115-124.

Lin F, Ren P, Wang X, Anthony M, Tadin D, Heffner KL. "Cortical thickness is associated with altered autonomic function in cognitively impaired and non-impaired older adults." The Journal of physiology.. 2017 Nov 15; 595(22):6969-6978. Epub 2017 Oct 25.

Books & Chapters

Chapter Title: Stress and immune function in humans: A life-course perspective
Book Title: Handbook of Psychoneuroimmunology
Author List: Moynihan, J. A.; Heffner, K. L.; Caserta, M.; O'Connor, T.
Published By: Oxford: John Wiley & Sons 2014

Chapter Title: Psychoneuroimmunology
Book Title: The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology
Author List: Heffner, K. L.
Published By: Wiley-Blackwell 2009

Chapter Title: Isolation: Health effects
Book Title: The Encyclopedia of Human Relationships
Author List: Heffner, K. L.
Published By: Sage 2009