Heather Elizabeth Whitson, MD

Professor of Medicine
Associate Professor in Ophthalmology
Director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development
Campus mail Dept of Medicine, Durham, NC 27710
Phone (919) 660-7514
Email address heather.whitson@duke.edu

Dr. Whitson's research is focused on improving care options and resilience for people with multiple chronic conditions.  In particular, she has interest and expertise related to the link between age-related changes in the eye and brain (e.g., How does late-life vision loss impact the aging brain or cognitive outcomes?  Is Alzheimer's disease associated with distinctive changes in the retina, and could such changes help diagnose Alzheimer's disease early in its course?).  Dr. Whitson leads a collaborative Alzheimer's Disease initiative that brings together investigators from Duke University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, with a bold vision to transform dementia research and care across Eastern North Carolina. Dr. Whitson is also interested in improving health services to better meet the needs of medically complex patients.  Within the Duke Aging Center, she leads research efforts aimed at promoting resilience to late-life stressors (e.g., surgery, sensory loss, infection).  She has developed a novel rehabilitation model for people with co-existing vision and cognitive deficits, and she is part of a inter-disciplinary team seeking to improve peri-operative outcomes for frail or at-risk seniors who must undergo surgery.  As a co-leader of a national resilience collaborative, she seeks to better understand the biological and psychological factors that determine how well we "bounce back" after health stressors.  

Education and Training

  • Fellow in Geriatrics, Medicine, Duke University, 2005 - 2006
  • Fellow in Geriatrics, Medicine, Duke University, 2003 - 2004
  • Medical Resident, Medicine, Duke University, 2000 - 2003
  • M.H.S., Duke University, 2009
  • M.D., Cornell University, 2000

Publications

Cohen, Andrew B., Anna L. Parks, Heather E. Whitson, Susan Zieman, Cynthia J. Brown, Cynthia Boyd, Kenneth E. Covinsky, and Michael A. Steinman. “Succeeding in Aging Research During the Pandemic: Strategies for Fellows and Junior Faculty.” J Am Geriatr Soc, October 13, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16868.

PMID
33047812
Full Text

Cohen, Seth M., Deborah Lekan, Thomas Risoli, Hui-Jie Lee, Stephanie Misono, Heather E. Whitson, and Sudha Raman. “Association Between Dysphagia and Inpatient Outcomes Across Frailty Level Among Patients ≥ 50 Years of Age.” Dysphagia 35, no. 5 (October 2020): 787–97. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00455-019-10084-z.

PMID
31811381
Full Text

Parker, Daniel C., Cathleen Colόn-Emeric, Janet L. Huebner, Ching-Heng Chou, Virginia Byers Kraus, Carl F. Pieper, Richard Sloane, et al. “Biomarkers Associated with Physical Resilience After Hip Fracture.” J Gerontol a Biol Sci Med Sci 75, no. 10 (September 25, 2020): e166–72. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glaa119.

PMID
32386291
Full Text

Deardorff, William J., Richard J. Sloane, Juliessa M. Pavon, Susan N. Hastings, and Heather E. Whitson. “Hospitalization Risk Among Older Adults with Sensory Impairments: Development of a Prognostic Model.” J Am Geriatr Soc, August 27, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16800.

PMID
32852787
Full Text

Swenor, Bonnielin K., Moon J. Lee, Varshini Varadaraj, Heather E. Whitson, and Pradeep Y. Ramulu. “Aging With Vision Loss: A Framework for Assessing the Impact of Visual Impairment on Older Adults.” Gerontologist 60, no. 6 (August 14, 2020): 989–95. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnz117.

PMID
31504483
Full Text

Zuo, Xintong, Jie Zhuang, Nan-Kuei Chen, Scott Cousins, Priscila Cunha, Eleonora M. Lad, David J. Madden, Guy Potter, and Heather E. Whitson. “Relationship between neural functional connectivity and memory performance in age-related macular degeneration.” Neurobiol Aging 95 (July 30, 2020): 176–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2020.07.020.

PMID
32829250
Full Text

Hreha, Kimberly P., Steve R. Fisher, Timothy A. Reistetter, Kenneth Ottenbacher, Allen Haas, Chih-Ying Li, Joshua R. Ehrlich, Diane B. Whitaker, and Heather E. Whitson. “Use of the ICD-10 vision codes to study ocular conditions in Medicare beneficiaries with stroke.” Bmc Health Serv Res 20, no. 1 (July 8, 2020): 628. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-020-05484-z.

PMID
32641050
Full Text

Nobuhara, Chloe K., W Michael Bullock, Thomas Bunning, Brian Colin, Mary Cooter, Michael J. Devinney, Michael N. Ferrandino, et al. “A protocol to reduce self-reported pain scores and adverse events following lumbar punctures in older adults.” J Neurol 267, no. 7 (July 2020): 2002–6. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-020-09797-1.

PMID
32198714
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Sandra Woolson, Maren Olsen, Robert Massof, Stephanie M. Ferguson, Kelly W. Muir, John A. Dziadul, Eleanor McConnell, and Joan A. Stelmack. “Cognitive Impairment among Veterans in Outpatient Vision Rehabilitation.” Optom Vis Sci 97, no. 6 (June 2020): 462–69. https://doi.org/10.1097/OPX.0000000000001522.

PMID
32511169
Full Text

Zietlow, K. E., D. Oyeyemi, M. Hardy, S. R. McDonald, S. Cook, S. Lagoo-Deenadayalan, M. T. Heflin, and H. Whitson. “Cognition and Capacity to Consent for Elective Surgery.” In Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 68:S170–71. WILEY, 2020.

Scholars@Duke

Pages