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Xianhua Piao


Brain researcher and all-season hiker

Dr. Xianhua Piao is a neonatologist who cares for premature babies and newborns with other serious health conditions.

Piao's research focuses on babies and brain development, with the goal of discovering ways to prevent and treat the neurological disorders associated with premature birth. She directs the UCSF Newborn Brain Research Institute, which studies how early conditions such as maternal inflammation and hypoxic-ischemic injuries (when the brain doesn't receive sufficient oxygen or blood flow) affect fetal and neonatal brain development, and further investigates how these conditions and adverse childhood experiences impact brain function later on.

Piao earned her medical degree from the Air Force Medical University in China and a master's degree in immunology from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. She completed a doctorate in cancer genetics at the University of Toronto. She completed a residency in pediatrics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, followed by a fellowship in neonatology and perinatology at Boston Children's Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She completed additional neuroscience research training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, also a Harvard affiliate. Prior to joining UCSF, she directed a neuroscience laboratory at Harvard Medical School for more than 15 years.

Piao is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Society for Developmental Biology, American Society of Human Genetics, Society for Neuroscience, Society for Pediatric Research, International Society for Neurochemistry, and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

  • Education

    Air Force Medical University, MD, 1984

    Chinese Academy of Medical Science, MS, Immunology, 1987

    University of Toronto, PhD, Cancer Genetics, 1996

  • Residencies

    NYU Grossman School of Medicine, Pediatrics, 1999

  • Fellowships

    Harvard Medical School, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, 2002

  • Academic Title


I work to maximize the intellectual and spiritual potential of every baby through research and the best patient care.

Where I see patients (1)

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