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

Horne, Alexandra J., Kimberly S. Chiew, Jie Zhuang, Linda K. George, R Alison Adcock, Guy G. Potter, Eleonora M. Lad, et al. “Relating Sensory, Cognitive, and Neural Factors to Older Persons' Perceptions about Happiness: An Exploratory Study.” J Aging Res 2018 (2018): 4930385. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/4930385.

PMID
30652033
Full Text

Lin, Frank R., and Heather E. Whitson. “The Common Sense of Considering the Senses in Patient Communication.” J Am Geriatr Soc 65, no. 8 (August 2017): 1659–60. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14926.

PMID
28436020
Full Text

Tisminetzky, Mayra, Elizabeth A. Bayliss, Jay S. Magaziner, Heather G. Allore, Kathryn Anzuoni, Cynthia M. Boyd, Thomas M. Gill, et al. “Research Priorities to Advance the Health and Health Care of Older Adults with Multiple Chronic Conditions.” J Am Geriatr Soc 65, no. 7 (July 2017): 1549–53. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14943.

PMID
28555750
Full Text

Lekan, Deborah A., Debra C. Wallace, Thomas P. McCoy, Jie Hu, Susan G. Silva, and Heather E. Whitson. “Frailty Assessment in Hospitalized Older Adults Using the Electronic Health Record.” Biol Res Nurs 19, no. 2 (March 2017): 213–28. https://doi.org/10.1177/1099800416679730.

PMID
27913742
Full Text

Chou, Ying-Hui, Mark Sundman, Heather E. Whitson, Pooja Gaur, Mei-Lan Chu, Carol P. Weingarten, David J. Madden, et al. “Maintenance and Representation of Mind Wandering during Resting-State fMRI.” Sci Rep 7 (January 12, 2017): 40722. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep40722.

PMID
28079189
Full Text

Polans, James, Brenton Keller, Oscar M. Carrasco-Zevallos, Francesco LaRocca, Elijah Cole, Heather E. Whitson, Eleonora M. Lad, Sina Farsiu, and Joseph A. Izatt. “Wide-field retinal optical coherence tomography with wavefront sensorless adaptive optics for enhanced imaging of targeted regions.” Biomed Opt Express 8, no. 1 (January 1, 2017): 16–37. https://doi.org/10.1364/BOE.8.000016.

PMID
28101398
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Wei Duan-Porter, Kenneth Schmader, Miriam Morey, Harvey J. Cohen, and Cathleen Colón-Emeric. “Response to Letter From De Alfieri et al.: Biological Resilience of Elderly Hospitalized Patients.” J Gerontol a Biol Sci Med Sci 72, no. 1 (January 2017): 142. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glw161.

PMID
27811154
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Wei Duan-Porter, Kenneth Schmader, Miriam Morey, Harvey J. Cohen, and Cathleen Colón-Emeric. “Response to Ukraintseva et al. Letter: Resilience Versus Robustness in Aging.” J Gerontol a Biol Sci Med Sci 71, no. 11 (November 2016): 1535–36. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glw137.

PMID
27445404
Full Text

Whitson, Heather, Sina Farsiu, Sandra S. Stinnett, Leon Kwark, Guy Potter, James Burke, Scott W. Cousins, and Eleonora M. Lad. “Retinal Biomarkers of Alzheimer's Disease.” In Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Vol. 57. ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2016.

Scholars@Duke

Pages