Heather Elizabeth Whitson, MD

Associate 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

Cunha, P. P., M. Stout, L. Ledbetter, J. Ruhle, H. Whitson, and L. Previll. “Museum-based Art interventions for people with dementia and their caregivers: A systematic review.” In Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 67:S340–S340. WILEY, 2019.

Scholars@Duke

Chan, Victor T. T., Zihan Sun, Shumin Tang, Li Jia Chen, Adrian Wong, Clement C. Tham, Tien Y. Wong, et al. “Spectral-Domain OCT Measurements in Alzheimer's Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Ophthalmology 126, no. 4 (April 2019): 497–510. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2018.08.009.

PMID
30114417
Full Text

Berger, Miles, Deborah Oyeyemi, Mobolaji O. Olurinde, Heather E. Whitson, Kent J. Weinhold, Marty G. Woldorff, Lewis A. Lipsitz, et al. “The INTUIT Study: Investigating Neuroinflammation Underlying Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction.” J Am Geriatr Soc 67, no. 4 (April 2019): 794–98. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15770.

PMID
30674067
Full Text

Bowling, C Barrett, Heather E. Whitson, and Theodore M. Johnson. “The 5Ts: Preliminary Development of a Framework to Support Inclusion of Older Adults in Research.” J Am Geriatr Soc 67, no. 2 (February 2019): 342–46. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15785.

PMID
30693952
Full Text

Smilnak, Gordon J., John R. Deans, P Murali Doraiswamy, Sandra Stinnett, Heather E. Whitson, and Eleonora M. Lad. “Comorbidity of age-related macular degeneration with Alzheimer's disease: A histopathologic case-control study.” Plos One 14, no. 9 (2019): e0223199. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223199.

PMID
31568508
Full Text

Lee, Moon Jeong, Varshini Varadaraj, Pradeep Y. Ramulu, Heather E. Whitson, Jennifer A. Deal, and Bonnielin K. Swenor. “Memory and Confusion Complaints in Visually Impaired Older Adults: An Understudied Aspect of Well-Being.” Gerontol Geriatr Med 5 (January 2019): 2333721418818944. https://doi.org/10.1177/2333721418818944.

PMID
30671493
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Alice Cronin-Golomb, Karen J. Cruickshanks, Grover C. Gilmore, Cynthia Owsley, Jonathan E. Peelle, Gregg Recanzone, et al. “American Geriatrics Society and National Institute on Aging Bench-to-Bedside Conference: Sensory Impairment and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults.” J Am Geriatr Soc 66, no. 11 (November 2018): 2052–58. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15506.

PMID
30248173
Full Text

Matchar, D. B., J. P. Ansah, V. Koh, and H. E. Whitson. “Trajectories of functional ability over the life course: a conceptual model of the interaction of stressor-induced functional loss and resilience.” System Dynamics Review 34, no. 4 (October 1, 2018): 481–502. https://doi.org/10.1002/sdr.1611.

Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Harvey J. Cohen, Kenneth E. Schmader, Miriam C. Morey, George Kuchel, and Cathleen S. Colon-Emeric. “Physical Resilience: Not Simply the Opposite of Frailty.” J Am Geriatr Soc 66, no. 8 (August 2018): 1459–61. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15233.

PMID
29577234
Full Text

Pages