Heather Elizabeth Whitson


Associate Professor of Medicine

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.

Appointments and Affiliations

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

Contact Information

  • Office Location: Dept Of Medicine, Durham, NC 27710
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-7514
  • Email Address: heather.whitson@duke.edu


  • Duke University, 2006
  • Duke University, 2004
  • Duke University, 2003
  • M.H.S. Duke University, 2009
  • M.D. Cornell University, 2000

Courses Taught

  • NEUROSCI 150: Research Practicum
  • NEUROSCI 493: Research Independent Study 1
  • NEUROSCI 494: Research Independent Study 2

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Bowling, CB; Whitson, HE; Johnson, TM, The 5Ts: Preliminary Development of a Framework to Support Inclusion of Older Adults in Research., Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, vol 67 no. 2 (2019), pp. 342-346 [10.1111/jgs.15785] [abs].
  • Berger, M; Oyeyemi, D; Olurinde, MO; Whitson, HE; Weinhold, KJ; Woldorff, MG; Lipsitz, LA; Moretti, E; Giattino, CM; Roberts, KC; Zhou, J; Bunning, T; Ferrandino, M; Scheri, RP; Cooter, M; Chan, C; Cabeza, R; Browndyke, JN; Murdoch, DM; Devinney, MJ; Shaw, LM; Cohen, HJ; Mathew, JP; INTUIT Investigators,, The INTUIT Study: Investigating Neuroinflammation Underlying Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction., Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2019) [10.1111/jgs.15770] [abs].
  • Matchar, DB; Ansah, JP; Koh, V; Whitson, HE, Trajectories of functional ability over the life course: a conceptual model of the interaction of stressor-induced functional loss and resilience, System Dynamics Review (2019) [10.1002/sdr.1611] [abs].
  • Todd, J; Whitson, HE; Marshall, EC, Eye and Vision Health for Tomorrow: From Recommendations to Coordinated Action., Jama Ophthalmology (2018) [10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.5923] [abs].
  • Whitson, HE; Cronin-Golomb, A; Cruickshanks, KJ; Gilmore, GC; Owsley, C; Peelle, JE; Recanzone, G; Sharma, A; Swenor, B; Yaffe, K; Lin, FR, American Geriatrics Society and National Institute on Aging Bench-to-Bedside Conference: Sensory Impairment and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults., Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, vol 66 no. 11 (2018), pp. 2052-2058 [10.1111/jgs.15506] [abs].