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

Polans, James, Francesco LaRocca, Oscar Carrasco-Zevallos, Brenton Keller, Eleonora M. Lad, Heather Whitson, Anthony N. Kuo, Sina Farsiu, and Joseph A. Izatt. “Wide-Field Sensorless Adaptive Optics Optical Coherence Tomography for Enhanced Visualization of the Retinal Periphery.” In Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Vol. 57. ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2016.

Scholars@Duke

Annweiler, C., D. Milea, H. E. Whitson, C. -. Y. Cheng, T. -. Y. Wong, M. K. Ikram, E. L. Lamoureux, and C. Sabanayagam. “Vitamin D insufficiency and cognitive impairment in Asians: a multi-ethnic population-based study and meta-analysis.” J Intern Med 280, no. 3 (September 2016): 300–311. https://doi.org/10.1111/joim.12491.

PMID
27037788
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Kimberly S. Johnson, Richard Sloane, Christine T. Cigolle, Carl F. Pieper, Lawrence Landerman, and Susan N. Hastings. “Identifying Patterns of Multimorbidity in Older Americans: Application of Latent Class Analysis.” J Am Geriatr Soc 64, no. 8 (August 2016): 1668–73. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14201.

PMID
27309908
Full Text

Potter, Guy G., Douglas R. McQuoid, Heather E. Whitson, and David C. Steffens. “Physical frailty in late-life depression is associated with deficits in speed-dependent executive functions.” Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 31, no. 5 (May 2016): 466–74. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.4351.

PMID
26313370
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Wei Duan-Porter, Kenneth E. Schmader, Miriam C. Morey, Harvey J. Cohen, and Cathleen S. Colón-Emeric. “Physical Resilience in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Development of an Emerging Construct.” J Gerontol a Biol Sci Med Sci 71, no. 4 (April 2016): 489–95. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glv202.

PMID
26718984
Full Text

Zullig, Leah L., Heather E. Whitson, Susan N. Hastings, Chris Beadles, Julia Kravchenko, Igor Akushevich, and Matthew L. Maciejewski. “A Systematic Review of Conceptual Frameworks of Medical Complexity and New Model Development.” J Gen Intern Med 31, no. 3 (March 2016): 329–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-015-3512-2.

PMID
26423992
Full Text

Chen, Sunny, Heather Whitson, Ana Quiñones, and Stephen Thielke. “Comparative health and self-rated health are equivalently associated with health indicators among older adults.” J Clin Epidemiol 70 (February 2016): 279–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2015.08.022.

PMID
26386324
Full Text

Liu, Phillip L., Harvey Jay Cohen, Gerda G. Fillenbaum, Bruce M. Burchett, and Heather E. Whitson. “Association of Co-Existing Impairments in Cognition and Self-Rated Vision and Hearing With Health Outcomes in Older Adults.” Gerontol Geriatr Med 2 (January 2016). https://doi.org/10.1177/2333721415623495.

PMID
27054148
Full Text

Lea, Colby, Ana Quiñones, Heather Whitson, Julie Bynum, and Stephen Thielke. “Changes in Self-Rated Health During the Transition to Retiring Living Among Medicare Managed-Care Recipients.” J Hous Elderly 30, no. 1 (2016): 76–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/02763893.2015.1129383.

PMID
29527088
Full Text

Genao, Liza, Michael T. Durheim, Xiaojuan Mi, Jamie L. Todd, Heather E. Whitson, and Lesley H. Curtis. “Early and Long-term Outcomes of Older Adults after Acute Care Encounters for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Exacerbation.” Ann Am Thorac Soc 12, no. 12 (December 2015): 1805–12. https://doi.org/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201504-250OC.

PMID
26394180
Full Text

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