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Rachel Whitmer, PhD

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Kaiser Permanente Division of Research
2000 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 891-3400 (phone)
rachel.whitmer@kp.org


Rachel Whitmer, PhD, is a Senior Research Scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. Dr. Whitmer received her BS in Psychology/Neuorscience Magna Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, her PhD in Human Development from the University of California, Davis, and Fellowship in Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Whitmer was a K12 scholar through the NIH Office of Research in Women's Health Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) program, administered by the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, San Francisco, from 2003-2005. She was a Fulbright Faculty Mentor in 2010-11.

 Dr. Whitmer leads a laboratory of population-based science in brain aging. Her group focuses on three major themes: 1) Ethnoracial disparities and diversity in cognitive aging and dementia outcomes; 2) Early-life contributions to brain health and dementia risk; and 3) Metabolic and vascular influences on brain aging. Her group utilizes lifecourse methods to address these themes. Dr. Whitmer is Principal Investigator of several studies, among them the SOLID (Study of Longevity in Diabetes), a cohort study of 1200 individuals with diabetes mellitus; KHANDLE  (Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experiences), a multiethnic cohort of 1,800 elderly individuals; and Kaiser STAR (Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans), a cohort of 700 African Americans age 50 and older. The primary objective of her research program is to identify and understand risk and protective factors for cognitive and brain aging in populations at high risk for dementia, including ethnic minority groups and those with chronic disease such as diabetes mellitus.

Dr. Whitmer is also on the faculty at University of California, San Francisco, in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and is core faculty on the department's Chronic Disease and  Aging Epidemiology T32, and the PhD program in Epidemiology and Translational Sciences. Multiple mentoring opportunities exist through this and other mechanisms. 

Current Position(s):

  • Research Scientist III, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California
  • Adjunct Professor, University of California San Francisco, Department of Epidemiology

Section Affiliations:

Primary Research Interests:

  • Racial/ethnic disparities in cognitive aging and dementia
  • Lifecourse epidemiology and methods
  • Diabetes mellitus and brain aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Brain health and cognitive resilience
  • Aging in type 1 diabetes
  • Oldest-old

Related Website(s):

Early Vascular Contributions to Dementia Risk in African-Americans

This is a lifecourse study of vascular risk and brain aging in a well-characterized population of 1,200 elderly African-Americans that will close the gap in knowledge regarding midlife risk and protective factors for cognitive decline. The data collected, in conjunction with extensive electronic medical records spanning decades, will allow for a cost-effective, efficient approach for an observational study of cumulative vascular risk and brain aging. Our overall objective is to understand the magnitude of cognitive decline and long-term contributions of vascular disease on cognitive impairment and brain injury in African-Americans, an understudied and rapidly expanding segment of the elderly population.
Investigator: Whitmer, Rachel
Funder: National Institute on Aging

Lifecourse Health, Cerebral Pathology and Ethnic Disparities in Dementia

Although there are marked ethnic disparities in rates of dementia, almost nothing is known about early life contributors to dementia in ethnic minority groups, nor if the trajectory of cognitive decline or transition to cognitive impairment varies across ethnic groups. This lifecourse study of ethnic disparities in the epidemiology of dementia will use over five decades of data in relation to cognitive decline and brain pathology. The overall objectives are to define ethnic disparities in dementia incidence and to advance our understanding of such disparities by assessing early and midlife risk factors for cognitive impairment and MRI markers of brain injury.
Investigator: Whitmer, Rachel
Funder: National Institute on Aging

Predictors of Late-life Cognitive Health in Type 1 Diabetes

There is evidence that middle aged-adults with Type 1 diabetes have deficits in cognitive function and are more likely to be diagnosed with depression . Although it is well established that elderly individuals with type 2 diabetes are at double the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, it remains unknown whether elderly individuals with Type 1 diabetes are also at greater risk for accelerated cognitive aging. The goal of this study is to characterize the extent of cognitive decline in a cohort of elderly individuals with Type 1 diabetes. Aims will focus on examining the role of insulin, depression, and hyper/hypoglycemic events on cognitive decline.
Investigator: Whitmer, Rachel
Funder: National Institute of Aging

Inequalities in dementia incidence between six racial and ethnic groups over 14years

Author(s): Mayeda ER; Glymour MM; Quesenberry CP; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Risk score for prediction of 10 year dementia risk in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a cohort study

Author(s): Exalto LG; Biessels GJ; Karter AJ; Huang ES; Katon WJ; Minkoff JR; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Heavy smoking in midlife and long-term risk of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia

Author(s): Rusanen M; Kivipelto M; Zhou J; Whitmer RA; Quesenberry CP Jr
PubMed abstract

Hypoglycemic episodes and risk of dementia in older patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Karter AJ; Yaffe K; Quesenberry CP Jr; Selby JV
PubMed abstract

Obesity in middle age and future risk of dementia: a 27 year longitudinal population based study

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Gunderson EP; Barrett-Connor E; Quesenberry CP Jr; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Association Between Birth in a High Stroke Mortality State, Race, and Risk of Dementia

Author(s): Gilsanz P; Mayeda ER; Glymour MM; Quesenberry CP; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Post-traumatic stress disorder and risk of dementia among members of a health care delivery system

Author(s): Flatt JD; Gilsanz P; Quesenberry CP; Albers KB; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Heterogeneity in 14-year Dementia Incidence Between Asian American Subgroups

Author(s): Mayeda ER; Glymour MM; Quesenberry CP; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Changes in Medication Use After Dementia Diagnosis in an Observational Cohort of Individuals with Diabetes Mellitus

Author(s): Sarkar U; Lyles C; Steinman M; Huang ES; Moffet HH; Whitmer RA; Warton EM; Karter AJ
PubMed abstract

A call for comparative effectiveness research to learn whether routine clinical care decisions can protect from dementia and cognitive decline

Author(s): Dacks PA; Armstrong JJ; Brannan SK; Carman AJ; Green AM; Kirkman MS; Krakoff LR; Kuller LH; Launer LJ; Lovestone S; Merikle E; Neumann PJ; Rockwood K; Shineman DW; Stefanacci RG; Velentgas P; Viswanathan A; Whitmer RA; Williamson JD; Fillit HM
PubMed abstract

First translational 'Think Tank' on cerebrovascular disease, cognitive impairment and dementia

Author(s): Barone FC; Gustafson D; Crystal HA; Moreno H; Adamski MG; Arai K; Baird AE; Balucani C; Brickman AM; Cechetto D; Gorelick P; Biessels GJ; Kiliaan A; Launer L; Schneider J; Sorond FA; Whitmer R; Wright C; Zhang ZG
PubMed abstract

Inequalities in dementia incidence between six racial and ethnic groups over 14years

Author(s): Mayeda ER; Glymour MM; Quesenberry CP; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Association Between Lifetime Marijuana Use and Cognitive Function in Middle Age: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study

Author(s): Auer R; Vittinghoff E; Yaffe K; K?? A; Kertesz SG; Levine DA; Albanese E; Whitmer RA; Jacobs DR; Sidney S; Glymour MM; Pletcher MJ
PubMed abstract

Feasibility study for remote assessment of cognitive function in multiple sclerosis

Author(s): George MF; Holingue CB; Briggs FB; Shao X; Bellesis KH; Whitmer RA; Schaefer C; Benedict RH; Barcellos LF
PubMed abstract

Effect of Early Adult Patterns of Physical Activity and Television Viewing on Midlife Cognitive Function

Author(s): Hoang TD; Reis J; Zhu N; Jacobs DR; Launer LJ; Whitmer RA; Sidney S; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Ethnic Differences in Geriatric Conditions and Diabetes Complications Among Older, Insured Adults With Diabetes; The Diabetes and Aging Study

Author(s): Karter AJ; Laiteerapong N; Chin MH; Moffet HH; Parker MM; Sudore R; Adams AS; Schillinger D; Adler NS; Whitmer RA; Piette JD; Huang ES
PubMed abstract

Genotyping Informatics and Quality Control for 100,000 Subjects in the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging (GERA) Cohort

Author(s): Kvale MN; Hesselson S; Hoffmann TJ; Cao Y; Chan D; Connell S; Croen LA; Dispensa BP; Eshragh J; Finn A; Gollub J; Iribarren C; Jorgenson E; Kushi LH; Lao R; Lu Y; Ludwig D; Mathauda GK; McGuire WB; Mei G; Miles S; Mittman M; Patil M; Quesenberry CP Jr; Ranatunga D; Rowell S; Sadler M; Sakoda LC; Shapero M; Shen L; Shenoy T; Smethurst D; Somkin CP; Van Den Eeden SK; Walter L; Wan E; Webster T; Whitmer RA; Wong S; Zau C; Zhan Y; Schaefer C; Kwok PY; Risch N;
PubMed abstract

Automated Assay of Telomere Length Measurement and Informatics for 100,000 Subjects in the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging (GERA) Cohort

Author(s): Lapham K; Kvale MN; Lin J; Connell S; Croen LA; Dispensa BP; Fang L; Hesselson S; Hoffmann TJ; Iribarren C; Jorgenson E; Kushi LH; Ludwig D; Matsuguchi T; McGuire WB; Miles S; Quesenberry CP Jr; Rowell S; Sadler M; Sakoda LC; Smethurst D; Somkin CP; Van Den Eeden SK; Walter L; Whitmer RA; Kwok PY; Risch N; Schaefer C; Blackburn EH;
PubMed abstract

Characterizing Race/Ethnicity and Genetic Ancestry for 100,000 Subjects in the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging (GERA) Cohort

Author(s): Banda Y; Kvale MN; Hoffmann TJ; Hesselson SE; Ranatunga D; Tang H; Sabatti C; Croen LA; Dispensa BP; Henderson M; Iribarren C; Jorgenson E; Kushi LH; Ludwig D; Olberg D; Quesenberry CP Jr; Rowell S; Sadler M; Sakoda LC; Sciortino S; Shen L; Smethurst D; Somkin CP; Van Den Eeden SK; Walter L; Whitmer RA; Kwok PY; Schaefer C; Risch N;
PubMed abstract

Cardiorespiratory fitness and brain volume and white matter integrity: The CARDIA Study

Author(s): Zhu N; Jacobs DR; Schreiner PJ; Launer LJ; Whitmer RA; Sidney S; Demerath E; Thomas W; Bouchard C; He K; Erus G; Battapady H; Bryan RN
PubMed abstract

Diabetes and Cognition

Author(s): Mayeda ER; Whitmer RA; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Midlife risk score for the prediction of dementia four decades later

Author(s): Exalto LG; Quesenberry CP; Barnes D; Kivipelto M; Biessels GJ; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Cognitive impairment in ORIGIN: timing is everything

Author(s): Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: The CARDIA Study

Author(s): Zhu N; Jacobs DR; Schreiner PJ; Yaffe K; Bryan N; Launer LJ; Whitmer RA; Sidney S; Demerath E; Thomas W; Bouchard C; He K; Reis J; Sternfeld B
PubMed abstract

Early adult to midlife cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive function

Author(s): Yaffe K; Vittinghoff E; Pletcher MJ; Hoang TD; Launer LJ; Whitmer R; Coker LH; Sidney S
PubMed abstract

Racial/ethnic differences in dementia risk among older type 2 diabetes patients: The Diabetes and Aging Study

Author(s): Mayeda ER; Karter AJ; Huang ES; Moffet HH; Haan MN; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Dementia and cognitive decline in type 2 diabetes and prediabetic stages: towards targeted interventions

Author(s): Biessels GJ; Strachan MW; Visseren FL; Kappelle LJ; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Severe Diabetic Retinal Disease and Dementia Risk in Type 2 Diabetes

Author(s): Exalto LG; Biessels GJ; Karter AJ; Huang ES; Quesenberry CP; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Risk score for prediction of 10 year dementia risk in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a cohort study

Author(s): Exalto LG; Biessels GJ; Karter AJ; Huang ES; Katon WJ; Minkoff JR; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

An update on type 2 diabetes, vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Author(s): Exalto LG; Whitmer RA; Kappele LJ; Biessels GJ
PubMed abstract

Hormone therapy and Alzheimer disease dementia: New findings from the Cache County Study

Author(s): Shao H; Breitner JC; Whitmer RA; Wang J; Hayden K; Wengreen H; Corcoran C; Tschanz J; Norton M; Munger R; Welsh-Bohmer K; Zandi PP; Cache County Investigators
PubMed abstract

Symptom Burden of Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Across the Disease Course; Diabetes & Aging Study

Author(s): Sudore RL; Karter AJ; Huang ES; Moffet HH; Laiteerapong N; Schenker Y; Adams A; Whitmer RA; Liu JY; Miao Y; John PM; Schillinger D
PubMed abstract

Central Obesity, Leptin and Cognitive Decline: The Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging

Author(s): Zeki Al Hazzouri A; Haan MN; Whitmer RA; Yaffe K; Neuhaus J
PubMed abstract

Midlife vs Late-Life Depressive Symptoms and Risk of Dementia: Differential Effects for Alzheimer Disease and Vascular Dementia

Author(s): Barnes DE; Yaffe K; Byers AL; McCormick M; Schaefer C; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Association of Depression With Increased Risk of Dementia in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: The Diabetes and Aging Study

Author(s): Katon W; Lyles CR; Parker MM; Karter AJ; Huang ES; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Design and coverage of high throughput genotyping arrays optimized for individuals of East Asian, African American, and Latino race/ethnicity using imputation and a novel hybrid SNP selection algorithm

Author(s): Hoffmann TJ; Zhan Y; Kvale MN; Hesselson SE; Gollub J; Iribarren C; Lu Y; Mei G; Purdy MM; Quesenberry C; Rowell S; Shapero MH; Smethurst D; Somkin CP; Van den Eeden SK; Walter L; Webster T; Whitmer RA; Finn A; Schaefer C; Kwok PY; Risch N
PubMed abstract

Next generation genome-wide association tool: design and coverage of a high-throughput European-optimized SNP array.

Author(s): Hoffmann TJ; Kvale MN; Hesselson SE; Zhan Y; Aquino C; Cao Y; Cawley S; Chung E; Connell S; Eshragh J; Ewing M; Gollub J; Henderson M; Hubbell E; Iribarren C; Kaufman J; Lao RZ; Lu Y; Ludwig D; Mathauda GK; McGuire W; Mei G; Miles S; Purdy MM; Quesenberry C; Ranatunga D; Rowell S; Sadler M; Shapero MH; Shen L; Shenoy TR; Smethurst D; Van den Eeden SK; Walter L; Wan E; Wearley R; Webster T; Wen CC; Weng L; Whitmer RA; Williams A; Wong SC; Zau C; Finn A; Schaefer C; Kwok PY; Risch N.;
PubMed abstract

Heavy smoking in midlife and long-term risk of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia

Author(s): Rusanen M; Kivipelto M; Zhou J; Whitmer RA; Quesenberry CP Jr
PubMed abstract

Timing of hormone therapy and dementia: the critical window theory revisited

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Quesenberry CP; Zhou J; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Commentary on 'Developing a national strategy to prevent dementia: Leon Thal Symposium 2009.' Dementia risk indices: A framework for identifying individuals with a high dementia risk

Author(s): Barnes DE; Covinsky KE; Whitmer RA; Kuller LH; Lopez OL; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Psychiatric disorders and cognitive dysfunction among older, postmenopausal women: results from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study

Author(s): Colenda CC; Legault C; Rapp SR; DeBon MW; Hogan P; Wallace R; Hershey L; Ockene J; Whitmer R; Phillips LS; Sarto GE
PubMed abstract

Use of angiotensin receptor blockers and risk of dementia in a predominantly male population: prospective cohort analysis

Author(s): Li NC; Lee A; Whitmer RA; Kivipelto M; Lawler E; Kazis LE; Wolozin B
PubMed abstract

Midlife serum cholesterol and increased risk of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia three decades later

Author(s): Solomon A; Kivipelto M; Wolozin B; Zhou J; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Predicting risk of dementia in older adults: The late-life dementia risk index

Author(s): Barnes DE; Covinsky KE; Whitmer RA; Kuller LH; Lopez OL; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

NSAID exposure and risk of Alzheimer disease: is timing everything?

Author(s): Bennett DA; Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Hypoglycemic episodes and risk of dementia in older patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Karter AJ; Yaffe K; Quesenberry CP Jr; Selby JV
PubMed abstract

Central obesity and increased risk of dementia more than three decades later

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Gustafson DR; Barrett-Connor E; Haan MN; Gunderson EP; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Childbearing may increase visceral adipose tissue independent of overall increase in body fat

Author(s): Gunderson EP; Sternfeld B; Wellons MF; Whitmer RA; Chiang V; Quesenberry CP Jr; Lewis CE; Sidney S
PubMed abstract

Statin use and risk of prostate cancer in the California Men's Health Study cohort

Author(s): Flick ED; Habel LA; Chan KA; Van Den Eeden SK; Quinn VP; Haque R; Orav EJ; Seeger JD; Sadler MC; Quesenberry CP Jr; Sternfeld B; Jacobsen SJ; Whitmer RA; Caan BJ
PubMed abstract

Type 2 diabetes and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia

Author(s): Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Metabolic syndrome and cognitive decline in elderly Latinos: findings from the Sacramento Area Latino Study of Aging study

Author(s): Yaffe K; Haan M; Blackwell T; Cherkasova E; Whitmer RA; West N
PubMed abstract

The epidemiology of adiposity and dementia

Author(s): Whitmer RA
PubMed abstract

Body mass index in midlife and risk of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Gunderson EP; Quesenberry CP Jr; Zhou J; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Lactation and changes in maternal metabolic risk factors

Author(s): Gunderson EP; Lewis CE; Wei GS; Whitmer RA; Quesenberry CP; Sidney S
PubMed abstract

Homocysteine, B vitamins, and the incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment: results from the Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging

Author(s): Haan MN; Miller JW; Aiello AE; Whitmer RA; Jagust WJ; Mungas DM; Allen LH; Green R
PubMed abstract

Physical activity and dementia: The need for prevention trials

Author(s): Barnes DE; Whitmer RA; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Midlife obesity and long-term risk of nursing home admission

Author(s): Elkins JS; Whitmer RA; Sidney S; Sorel M; Yaffe K; Johnston SC
PubMed abstract

Obesity in middle age and future risk of dementia: a 27 year longitudinal population based study

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Gunderson EP; Barrett-Connor E; Quesenberry CP Jr; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Midlife cardiovascular risk factors and risk of dementia in late life

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Sidney S; Selby J; Johnston SC; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract

Hormone replacement therapy and cognitive performance: the role of homocysteine

Author(s): Whitmer RA; Haan MN; Miller JW; Yaffe K
PubMed abstract