Heather Elizabeth Whitson

Professor of Medicine

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.  


Harvey Jay Cohen

Walter Kempner Distinguished Professor of Medicine, in the School of Medicine

Dr. Cohen's research program includes clinical research relating to aspects of the pathways to functional decline and reilience with aging, geriatric assessment, and cancer and anemia in the elderly.

Pathways to functional decline are being explored through the NIA funded Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, and includes studies of the contributions of age related physiologic change, in particular changes in inflammatory parameters, comorbid diseases and conditions, environment, genetics, and the interactionas among them. Data are derived from several current studies as well as previously collected data sets from the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (EPESE), National Long Term Care Survey, and the Chinese Longevity Study (with Dr. Zeng Yi). Previous work has demonstrated the important contributions of age related inflammation and coagulation activation to functional status. He is Co-PI of the Pepper Center Physical Performance Across the LifeSpan (PALS) study, which is a longitudinal cohort study of community dwelling adults from age 30-90+and includes functional measures and biomarkers on inflammation and metabolism.
Geriatric assessment approaches have been studied in a number of randomized and controlled studies and work is now concentrating on the application of Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment tools to the evaluation and treatment of elderly patients with cancer. This is an extension and continuation of a long standing interest in geriatric oncology. Previous studies have elucidated age-related patterns of disease presentation, treatment approaches, clinical trials, survivorship, quality of life, impact of comrobidities and functional outcomes. Dr. Cohen was co-chair, and now member of the Cancer in the Older Adult Committee of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology (ALLIANCE). A number of active studies and ongoing data bases aree being utilized to address these questions.

Anemia in the older adult is being addressed through an NIA funded U01 consortium (Dr. Cohen Co-PI). the current main study is an observational study followed by a pragmatic treatment trial for anemia in older adults with CHF, in collaboration with the Cardiovascular Research Network (CVRN) of the Health services research network (HSRN) 


Svetlana Ukraintseva

Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

Dr. Ukraintseva studies causes of human aging and related decline in resilience, to identify genetic and other factors responsible for the increase in mortality risk with age eventually limiting longevity. She explores complex relationships, including trade-offs, between physiological aging-changes and risks of major diseases (with emphasis on Alzheimer’s and cancer), as well as survival, to find new genetic and other targets for anti-aging interventions and disease prevention. She also investigates possibilities of repurposing of existing vaccines and treatments for AD prevention and interventions into the aging. For this, Dr. Ukraintseva and her team use data from several large human studies containing rich genetic and phenotypic information (including longitudinal measurements) on thousands of individuals. Dr. Ukraintseva is a PI and Key Investigator on several NIH funded grants, and has more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, including in major journals such as Nature Reviews, Stroke, European Journal of Human Genetics, and some other.


Konstantin Arbeev

Associate Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

Konstantin G. Arbeev received the M.S. degree in Applied Mathematics from Moscow State University (branch in Ulyanovsk, Russia) in 1995 and the Ph.D. degree in Mathematics and Physics (specialization in Theoretical Foundations of Mathematical Modeling, Numerical Methods and Programming) from Ulyanovsk State University (Russia) in 1999. He was a post-doctoral fellow in Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (Germany) before moving to Duke University in 2004 to work as a Research Scientist and a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Sociology and the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI).  He is currently an Associate Research Professor in SSRI. Dr. Arbeev's major research interests are related to three interconnected fields of biodemography, biostatistics and genetic epidemiology as pertains to research on aging. The focus of his research is on discovering genetic and non-genetic factors that can affect the process of aging and determine longevity and healthy lifespan. He is interested in both methodological advances in this research area as well as their practical applications to analyses of large-scale longitudinal studies with phenotypic, genetic and, recently, genomic information. Dr. Arbeev authored and co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications in these areas.


Anatoli I. Yashin

Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

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