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

Thielke, Stephen M., Paula H. Diehr, Laura M. Yee, Alice M. Arnold, Ana R. Quiñones, Heather E. Whitson, Mini E. Jacob, and Anne B. Newman. “Sex, Race, and Age Differences in Observed Years of Life, Healthy Life, and Able Life among Older Adults in The Cardiovascular Health Study.” J Pers Med 5, no. 4 (November 25, 2015): 440–51. https://doi.org/10.3390/jpm5040440.

PMID
26610574
Full Text

Berger, Miles, Jacob W. Nadler, Jeffrey Browndyke, Niccolo Terrando, Vikram Ponnusamy, Harvey Jay Cohen, Heather E. Whitson, and Joseph P. Mathew. “Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction: Minding the Gaps in Our Knowledge of a Common Postoperative Complication in the Elderly.” Anesthesiol Clin 33, no. 3 (September 2015): 517–50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anclin.2015.05.008.

PMID
26315636
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., Sina Farsiu, Sandra Stinnett, Sung Lee, Leon Kwark, Guy Potter, James Burke, Scott W. Cousins, and Eleonora Lad. “Retinal imaging biomarkers for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.” In Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Vol. 56. ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2015.

Scholars@Duke

Wright, Jonathan P., Arthika Chandramohan, Xuan Duong Fernandez, Eleonora Lad, Jie Zhuang, Scott W. Cousins, and Heather E. Whitson. “Is discrepancy in self-reported vision and visual acuity related to neurocognitive status of AMD patients?” In Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Vol. 56. ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2015.

Scholars@Duke

Chandramohan, Arthika, Jonathan P. Wright, Xuan Duong Fernandez, Jie Zhuang, Leon Kwark, Sina Farsiu, Scott W. Cousins, David Madden, Eleonora M. Lad, and Heather E. Whitson. “Relationships between Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer and Brain Changes in Age-Related Macular Degeneration.” In Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Vol. 56. ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2015.

Scholars@Duke

Chandramohan, A., J. Wright, X Duong Fernandez, J. Zhuang, E. Lad, S. Cousins, D. Madden, E. Piker, D. Tucci, and H. Whitson. “The Effect of Hearing on Cognitive Evaluation in Patients with Age-related Macular Degeneration.” In Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 63:S147–S147. WILEY-BLACKWELL, 2015.

Scholars@Duke

Whitson, Heather E., Ying-Hui Chou, Guy G. Potter, Michele T. Diaz, Nan-Kuei Chen, Eleonora M. Lad, Micah A. Johnson, Scott W. Cousins, Jie Zhuang, and David J. Madden. “Phonemic fluency and brain connectivity in age-related macular degeneration: a pilot study.” Brain Connect 5, no. 2 (March 2015): 126–35. https://doi.org/10.1089/brain.2014.0277.

PMID
25313954
Full Text

Whitson, Heather E., and Frank R. Lin. “Hearing and vision care for older adults: sensing a need to update Medicare policy.” Jama 312, no. 17 (November 5, 2014): 1739–40. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2014.13535.

PMID
25369486
Full Text

Odden, Michelle C., Michael G. Shlipak, Heather E. Whitson, Ronit Katz, Patricia M. Kearney, Chris defilippi, Shani Shastri, et al. “Risk factors for cardiovascular disease across the spectrum of older age: the Cardiovascular Health Study.” Atherosclerosis 237, no. 1 (November 2014): 336–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.09.012.

PMID
25303772
Full Text

Clark, Nathan, Vincent S. Fan, Christopher G. Slatore, Emily Locke, Heather E. Whitson, Linda Nici, and Stephen M. Thielke. “Dyspnea and pain frequently co-occur among Medicare managed care recipients.” Ann Am Thorac Soc 11, no. 6 (July 2014): 890–97. https://doi.org/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201310-369OC.

PMID
24960243
Full Text

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