hero image
Dr. Heather E. Whitson, MD, MHS - International Federation on Ageing. Durham, NC, US

Dr. Heather E. Whitson, MD, MHS Dr. Heather E. Whitson, MD, MHS

Professor | International Federation on Ageing

Durham, NC, UNITED STATES

She has particular interest and expertise related to the interface between age-related changes in sensory and cognitive health.

Spotlight

Media

Publications:

Documents:

Photos:

loading image loading image

Videos:

Audio:

Social

Biography

Dr. Heather E. Whitson, MD, MHS is an internist, geriatrician, and clinical investigator. Dr. Whitson is the Director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development (aka Duke Aging Center). Established in 1955, the Duke Aging Center is the longest standing center in the nation devoted to the multi-disciplinary study of the aging process, spanning social, clinical, and basic sciences. Dr. Whitson’s own research agenda seeks to improve health and resilience for older adults with multiple chronic conditions (MCC).

She has particular interest and expertise related to the interface between age-related changes in sensory and cognitive health. She leads the new Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s disease initiative, a major collaborative effort which is re-imagining research and care for dementia across Eastern North Carolina. Additionally, she has contributed substantially to the emerging construct of physical resilience to health stressors. Dr. Whitson currently serves as the Chair of the American Geriatrics Society Research Committee and the Chair of the Advisory Committee to the Center for Vision and Population Health. She is a recipient of the American Geriatrics Society Yoshikawa Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Clinical Investigation.

Areas of Expertise (10)

Population Health

Alzheimers

Ageing

Age-Related Changes in the Eye

Cognitive Health

Sensory Health

Age-Related Changes in the Brain

Vision Health

Dementia

Physical Resilience in Late Life

Accomplishments (5)

Richard Grol Visiting Scientist Award

2018 Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, the Netherlands

Thomas and Catherine Yoshikawa Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement for Clinical Investigation

2018 American Geriatrics Society

Duke Health Scholars Award

2016 Duke School of Medicine

Outstanding Committee Service Award

2015 Research Committee, American Geriatrics Society

Distinguished Nominee for Research Mentoring Award

2016 Duke School of Medicine

Education (3)

Duke University: M.H.S., Clinical Research Training Program 2009

Cornell University, Weill Medical College: M.D. 2000

Stanford University: B.S. 1996

Affiliations (3)

  • “AGING” Initiative on MCC, Member: 2014 to present
  • Gerontological Society of America, Member: 2008 to present
  • American Geriatrics Society, Member: 2004 to present

Media Appearances (5)

Harvey Cohen Says Yes

Duke University School of Medicine  online

2019-06-25

On June 30, 2019, he shed the last of his administrative roles when he turned over the reins of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development to Heather Whitson, MD, MHS, associate professor of medicine (Geriatrics) and ophthalmology.

view more

Look after your eyes to protect your brain, new study claims

Deccan Chronicle  online

2018-07-06

“This study provides additional evidence that would suggest that people who can keep their vision healthy as they age might also be protecting their cognitive health,” said Dr. Heather E. Whitson of Duke University School of Medicine and Durham VA Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the research.

view more

Maintaining healthy vision may help keep brain in shape, too

Reuters  online

2018-07-04

“This study provides additional evidence that would suggest that people who can keep their vision healthy as they age might also be protecting their cognitive health,” said Dr. Heather E. Whitson of Duke University School of Medicine and Durham VA Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the research.

view more

Clinical Research Day highlights the role of new technologies in building partnerships

Duke University School of Medicine  online

2018-05-28

Following Insel’s talk, four Duke researchers shared examples of their own projects that delve into clinical research, with an overriding theme of technology. Gary Bennett, PhD, the Bishop-MacDermott Family Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, discussed his work in developing digital obesity treatments. Heather Whitson, MD, MHS, associate professor of medicine (geriatrics) and ophthalmology and deputy director of the Duke Aging Center, discussed the connection between patients with vision and cognition issues in late life, and the importance of developing treatment that recognizes this connection.

view more

Doctor Shortage: Who Will Take Care of the Elderly?

U.S. News & World Report  online

2015-04-21

“We are not prepared as a nation. We are facing a crisis,” says Dr. Heather Whitson, associate professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. “Our current health care system is ill equipped to provide the optimal care experience for patients with multiple chronic conditions or with functional limitations and disabilities.”

view more

Event Appearances (5)

Geriatrics Visiting Professor and Grand Rounds Speaker

Resilience in the Era of Multiple Chronic Conditions  University of California at San Francisco

2020-03-20

Grol Award Lecture

Physical Resilience: The Science of “Bouncing Back” after Health Stressors  Radboud University, Nijmegen

2020-02-05

Santa Fe Institute for Complexity Science

Resilience and vulnerability to health stressors  Sante Fe, New Mexico

2018-10-11

Radboud Research Round

Physical Resilience across the Lifespan: Tools for Clinicians and Researchers  Radboud University, Nijmegen

2018-04-12

Veterans Administration VISN8 GRECC Research Retreat

Frailty and Resiliency  Miami, Florida

2018-02-28

Featured Articles (5)

Use of the ICD-10 vision codes to study ocular conditions in Medicare beneficiaries with stroke BMC Health Services ResearchF

2020 Ocular conditions are common following stroke and frequently occur in combination with pre-existing ophthalmologic disease. The Medicare International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) coding system for identifying vision related health conditions provides a much higher level of detail for coding these complex scenarios than the previous ICD-9 system.

view more

A protocol to reduce self-reported pain scores and adverse events following lumbar punctures in older adults Journal of NeurologyF

2020 Lumbar punctures (LPs) are important for obtaining CSF in neurology studies but are associated with adverse events and feared by many patients. We determined adverse event rates and pain scores in patients prospectively enrolled in two cohort studies who underwent LPs using a standardized protocol and 25 g needle.

view more

Cognitive Impairment among Veterans in Outpatient Vision Rehabilitation Journal of the American Academy of OptometryF

2020 Outpatient vision rehabilitation improves function in veterans with vision impairment, but the prevalence of cognitive impairment and the degree to which it may affect rehabilitation outcomes in the Veterans Affairs system are unknown.

view more

Biomarkers Associated with Physical Resilience After Hip Fracture The Journals of GerontologyF

2020 Clinically similar older adults demonstrate variable responses to health stressors, heterogeneity attributable to differences in physical resilience. However, molecular mechanisms underlying physical resilience are unknown. We previously derived a measure of physical resilience after hip fracture—the expected recovery differential (ERD)—that captures the difference between actual recovery and predicted recovery.

view more

Two Approaches to Classifying and Quantifying Physical Resilience in Longitudinal Data The Journals of GerontologyF

2020 We apply two conceptual approaches to defining physical resilience to existing longitudinal data sets in which outcomes are measured after an acute physical stressor. A “recovery phenotype” approach uses statistical methods to describe how quickly and completely a patient recovers.

view more