The Silverstein Memorial Award for Emerging Investigators in the Surgical and Related Medical Specialties recognizes emerging researchers across health care committed to careers in aging. Their geriatrics-focused work in surgical and other medical specialties helps to advance the unique care we all need as we age.
2023 Recipient: Elizabeth L. Whitlock, MD
Elizabeth L. Whitlock, MD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is the 2023 recipient of the Jeffrey H. Silverstein Memorial Award for Emerging Investigators in the Surgical and Related Medical Specialties.
The award will be presented at the 2023 AGS Annual Scientific Meeting (#AGS23) which is being held in Long Beach, CA from May 4-6 (preconference day is May 3). The award recognizes Dr. Whitlock for her cross-cutting work in geriatrics, anesthesiology, and epidemiology.
“Since its inception, the AGS has worked to advance the care of older adults and to ensure that all clinicians are skilled in delivering person-centered health care to all of us as we age.” said AGS President G. Michael Harper, MD, AGSF. “Dr. Whitlock’s research is explicitly geared towards helping older individuals make decisions about surgical care that take into account their cognitive and physical outcomes. Her emerging body of evidence embodies what Dr. Silverstein, for whom this award is named, and other leaders of the Geriatrics-for-Specialists Initiative hoped for when they set out to support and mentor early-career investigators to pursue research at the intersection of geriatrics and their own specialty.”
Dr. Whitlock is the recipient of a GEMSSTAR R03 award, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER), and a UCSF KL2 Award. For her GEMSSTAR Award, Dr. Whitlock sought to bridge the fields of anesthesiology, geriatrics, and epidemiology, taking a population-level view towards measuring long-term cognitive outcomes after surgery and surgically-relevant conditions. With her GEMSSTAR funding, she identified a unique opportunity for causal inference in understanding whether major heart surgery differentially affects cognition compared to minimally invasive coronary revascularization. The major conclusion of this work, which was published in JAMA in 2021, was that average cognitive outcomes were equivalent, suggesting that clinical needs – and not concerns about the cognitive impact of major heart surgery – should drive revascularization decisions for older adults. In 2022, NIA awarded her an R01, which is focused on predicting long-term cognitive outcomes after major noncardiac surgery for older adults. Dr. Whitlock’s long-term goal is to build the evidence base that will allow clinicians to predict adverse neurocognitive sequelae of surgery for older adults. This would allow clinicians to include potential cognitive outcomes in their discussion of the risks and benefits of surgery in the same way that they currently discuss outcomes like relief of pain and prevention of metastatic disease.
“During my anesthesiology residency, I observed that older adults were very concerned about long-term adverse cognitive outcomes after surgery, and asked me questions which the peer-reviewed literature could not answer, like – jokingly – ‘Will I be able to find my keys?’ but then, a more nuanced, ‘Well, if I could get back to gardening without knee pain, I wouldn’t mind taking a little longer to find my keys – is that what you think will happen?’”, said Dr. Whitlock. “These aren’t questions that are easily answered by the current literature and my long-term goal is to provide language for clinicians to discuss long-term anticipated cognitive outcomes after surgery. Ultimately, this will better support goal-concordant care.”
An AGS member since 2016, Dr. Whitlock has presented her research at several AGS Annual Scientific Meetings, received the Presidential Best Abstract award for Epidemiology in 2020, and has volunteered as an AGS Annual Scientific Meeting abstract reviewer since 2018. At AGS23, she will present her research on cognitive outcomes after total joint arthroplasty using population-based data and explore novel data on patient-centered definitions of postoperative cognitive dysfunction. These lines of inquiry are crucial to support patient-centered shared decision making for older adults considering surgery and for potential efforts to prevent and treat postoperative neurocognitive disorder when it occurs.
Board-certified in anesthesiology, Dr. Whitlock received her MD from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. She completed her internship, residency, and fellowship at University of California San Francisco, where she is an Assistant Professor. Like Dr. Silverstein, Dr. Whitlock is working to bring attention to the unique health care needs of older adults by taking on national leadership roles within professional organizations representing anesthesiology and surgery. She is a member of the Anesthesia Research Council’s Steering Committee, the American College of Surgeons’ Geriatric Surgical Verification Program’s Education and Feedback Task Force, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Geriatric Anesthesia Task Force, and recently completed a term on the Association of University Anesthesiologists’ Leadership Advisory Board. She is an Associate Editor at the British Journal of Anaesthesia, and has been Associate Editor for the Geriatrics section of the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia since 2019.
Past Recipients of the Jeffrey H. Silverstein Memorial Award
2022 Lauren Southerland, MD
2021 Lindsay Hampson, MD, MAS
2020 Kavita Vyas Dharmarajan, MD
2020 Nazema Y. Siddiqui, MD
2019 Courtney Balentine, MD, MPH
2019 Candace Yvonne Parker-Autry, MD
2018 Tony Rosen, MD, MPH
2017 Anne M. Suskind, MD, MS