Heather Elizabeth Whitson

Associate Professor of Medicine
Associate Professor in Ophthalmology
Deputy Director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development

Dr. Whitson's research is focused on improving care and health outcomes for people with multiple chronic conditions.  In particular, she has interest and expertise related to the link between changes in the eye and brain (e.g., Why do cognitive and brain changes occur in the context of late-life vision loss?  Is Alzheimer's Disease associated with distinctive changes in the retina, and could such changes help diagnose Alzheimer's early in its course?).  Dr. Whitson is also interested in improving care delivery systems and intervention programs to better serve 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).  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.

M.D. 2000, Cornell University
M.H.S. 2009, Duke University
Medical Resident, Medicine, Duke University
Fellow in Geriatrics, Medicine, Duke University
Fellow in Geriatrics, Medicine, Duke University

Selected Publications

Gijzel, Sanne M. W., Heather E. Whitson, Ingrid A. van de Leemput, Marten Scheffer, Dieneke van Asselt, Jerrald L. Rector, Marcel G. M. Olde Rikkert, and René J. F. Melis. “Resilience in Clinical Care: Getting a Grip on the Recovery Potential of Older Adults..” J Am Geriatr Soc, September 9, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16149.
High, Kevin P., Susan Zieman, Jerry Gurwitz, Carl Hill, Jennifer Lai, Thomas Robinson, Mara Schonberg, and Heather Whitson. “Use of Functional Assessment to Define Therapeutic Goals and Treatment..” J Am Geriatr Soc 67, no. 9 (September 2019): 1782–90. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15975.
Colón-Emeric, Cathleen, Heather E. Whitson, Carl F. Pieper, Richard Sloane, Denise Orwig, Kim M. Huffman, Janet Prvu Bettger, et al. “Resiliency Groups Following Hip Fracture in Older Adults..” J Am Geriatr Soc, August 30, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16152.
Swenor, Bonnielin K., Moon J. Lee, Varshini Varadaraj, Heather E. Whitson, and Pradeep Y. Ramulu. “Aging With Vision Loss: A Framework for Assessing the Impact of Visual Impairment on Older Adults..” Gerontologist, August 24, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnz117.
Carpenter, Christopher R., Frances McFarland, Michael Avidan, Miles Berger, Sharon K. Inouye, Jason Karlawish, Frank R. Lin, et al. “Impact of Cognitive Impairment Across Specialties: Summary of a Report From the U13 Conference Series..” J Am Geriatr Soc, August 22, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16093.

Selected Grants

Duke CTSA (KL2) awarded by National Institutes of Health 2018 - 2023

Duke CTSA (TL1) awarded by National Institutes of Health 2018 - 2023

Physical Resiliencies: Indicators and Mechanisms in the Elderly Collaborative awarded by National Institutes of Health 2017 - 2022

Neuro-inflammation in Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction: CSF and fMRI Studies awarded by National Institutes of Health 2017 - 2022

IPA-Carl Pieper awarded by 2019 - 2020