Heather Whitson, MD, MHS, associate professor of medicine (Geriatrics) and ophthalmology, will serve as the next director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Dr. Whitson will succeed Harvey Cohen, MD, the Walter Kempner Professor of Medicine and chair emeritus of the Department of Medicine.
Dr. Cohen has led the Center for the past 36 years. During his tenure, Cohen founded and led the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Durham VA and the Division of Geriatrics at Duke, for which he served as Division Chief from 1982-2002 and 2003-2006.
Under Cohen's leadership, Duke was designated as a Hartford Foundation Center of Excellence in Geriatrics and received funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to establish one of the first Geriatrics Research and Training Centers and subsequently a Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, which Cohen led for more than 25 years.
The Center has been funded by a T32 training grant continuously for more than 30 years and has educated and trained the nation’s leading experts on aging. Its postdoctoral research training program has graduated more than 200 scholars, and the Geriatric Fellowship program has graduated more than 113 geriatricians. The Center has been consistently rated among the top five academic programs in aging nationally. Cohen will continue in his faculty roles as investigator and mentor.
Whitson is an internist, geriatrician, and clinical investigator. She currently serves as deputy director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. She is a research physician in the Durham VA’s Geriatrics Research Education and Clinical Center. Her research agenda seeks to improve health and resilience for older adults with multiple chronic conditions, with a special focus on the interface of sensory and cognitive health.
Whitson leads the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core of the Duke Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Center. She leads and co-leads numerous others studies and national research initiatives. In recognition of her contributions to geriatrics research, Whitson was awarded the 2018 American Geriatrics Society Thomas and Catherine Yoshikawa Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Clinical Investigation.