Elizabeth Helzner, PhD, MS

Elizabeth Purchase Helzner, PhD, MS

Associate Professor
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health
Faculty, The Brooklyn Initiative to Develop Geriatrics Education

Dr. Elizabeth Helzner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She received a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh, and subsequently held postdoctoral fellowships in Aging Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and in Neuroepidemiology at Columbia University’s Gertrude Sergievsky Center.

Dr. Helzner is a chronic disease epidemiologist who specializes in the study age-related conditions. Her primary research focus is age-related hearing loss (presbycusis). She has explored many potential contributors to hearing loss in older age, including diabetes, bone density, vascular health, and demographic, genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. She has also studied the influence of presbycusis on cognition and cognitive decline, mortality, psychological health, and physical function.

In addition to her work in hearing loss, Dr. Helzner has conducted epidemiologic studies on the natural history of Alzheimer’s disease, including examinations of post-diagnosis survival and correlates of cognitive decline among patients with AD. Her collaborative projects with the departments of Neurology, Oncology, Geriatric Psychiatry, and Occupational Therapy at SUNY Downstate, have focused on projects related to pre-hospital stroke diagnosis, the epidemiology of multiple myeloma, the influence of hearing loss on mental state in elders, and community-based programming for people living with Parkinson’s Disease.

A new area of interest for Dr. Helzner is the association between dietary patterns and chronic disease, particularly the role that plant-based nutrition can play in the prevention and treatment of common health conditions in the community. 

Education and Training
  • Ph.D. in Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA,      

    Dissertation: The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss in Older Adult
    Advisor: Jane A. Cauley, DrPH, 2004

  • M.S., with distinction, Boston University, Boston, MA,1995
  • B.S., magna cum laude, Boston University, Boston, MA, 1994
  • Post-doctoral Fellow in Neuroepidemiology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York NY, 2005-2007
  • Post-doctoral Fellow in Aging Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA, 2004-2005
  • Pre-doctoral Fellow in Aging Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA, 2002-2004
  • Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, SUNY Downstate School of Public Health, 2009-2018
  • Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, SUNY Downstate School of Public Health, 2018-present
Professional and Community Service and Leadership (selected) 
  • Presiding Officer, Faculty and Professional Staff Assembly – School of Public Health 2019 -
  • Chair, School of Public Health Marketing Task Force, 2012-2019
  • SUNY Downstate Institutional Review Board 2013- 
  • SUNY Downstate Committee on Plant-Based Health and Nutrition, Vice Chair – 2018-
  • Brooklyn Initiative to Develop Geriatrics Education (BRIDGE), Coordinating Council – 2019-
Professional Organizations and Community Service 
  • American Public Health Association, Aging and Public Health Section, 2013 -
  • Advisory Committee to the CDC - Audiology 2018-
  • NY State Cohort Advocate, The Audiology Project 2018-
  • Central Brooklyn Diabetes Task Force 2018-
  • Nutrition Advisory Committee to Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams 2019-       
  • Bayoumi NS, Helzner E, Afable A, Joseph MA, Dhuper S. A real-world evaluation of a tertiary care childhood obesity intervention to reduce metabolic risk in a hard-to-reach urban population. BMC Pediatrics 2019; 19(1): 378.
  • Baiduc RR, Helzner EP. Epidemiology of Diabetes and Hearing Loss. Seminars in Hearing 2019; 40 (04): 281-291.
  • Komaroff M, Telda F, Helzner E, Joseph MA. Antihypertensive medications and change in stages of chronic kidney disease. Int J Chronic Dis 2018; Article ID 1382705, 10 pages.
  • Helzner EP, Contrera KJ. Type 2 Diabetes and Hearing Impairment. Current Diabetes Reports 2016; 16:1-7.
  • Deal JA, Betz J, Yaffe K, Harris T, Purchase-Helzner E, Satterfield S, Pratt S, Govil N, Simonsick EM, Lin FR. Hearing impairment and incident dementia and cognitive decline in older adults: The Health ABC Study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2016; 72:703-709.
  • Contrera KJ, Betz J, Deal J, Choi JS, Harris T, Helzner E, Lin FR. Association of hearing impairment and anxiety in older adults. Journal of aging and health 2016; 29: 172-184.
  • Kamil RJ, Betz J, Powers BB, Pratt S, Kritchevsky S, Ayonayon HN, Harris TB, Helzner E, Deal JA, Martin K, Peterson M, Satterfield S, Simonsick EM, Lin FR, for the Health ABC Study. Association of Hearing Impairment With Incident Frailty and Falls in Older Adults J Aging Health 2016; 28: 644-660.
  • Contrera KJ, Betz J, Deal JA, Choi JS, Ayonayon HN, Harris T, Helzner E, Martin KR, Mehta K, Pratt S, Rubin SM, Satterfield S, Yaffe K, Garcia M, Simonsick EM, Lin FR. Association of Hearing Impairment and Emotional Vitality in Older Adults J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2016; 71: 400-404.
  • Sharma M, Helzner E, Sinert R, Levine SR, Brandler ES. Patient characteristics affecting stroke identification by emergency medical service providers in Brooklyn, NY. Internal and Emergency Medicine 2015; 11: 229-236.
  • Brandler ES, Sharma M, McCullough F, Ben-Eli D, Kaufman B, Khandelwal P, Helzner E, Sinert R, Levine S. Prehospital stroke identification: factors associated with diagnostic accuracy. Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases 2015; 24: 2161-2166.
  • Tranah GJ, Yaffe K, Katzman SM, Lam ET, Pawlikowska L, Kwok PY, Schork NJ, Manini TM, Kritchevsky S, Thomas F, Newman AB, Harris TB, Coleman AL, Gorin MB, Helzner EP, Rowbotham MC, Browner WS, Cummings SR. Mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy associations with neurosensory and mobility function in elderly adults. J Gerentol A Biomed Sci Med Sci 2015: 11:1418-1424.
  • Genther DJ, Betz J, Ayonayon H, Krichevsky S, Martin K, Harris T, Helzner EP, Satterfield S, Xue Q-L, Yaffe K, Simonsick E, Lin FR. Association of Hearing Loss and Mortality in Older Adults. Journal Gerentol A Biomed Sci Med Sci 2014; 1:85-90.
  • Mener DJ, Betz J, Yaffe K, Harris TB, Purchase-Helzner E, Satterfield S, Houston DK, Kritchevsky SB, Strotmeyer ES, Pratt SR, Simonsick EM, Lin FR. Apolipoprotein E Allele and Hearing Thresholds in Older Adults.  American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias 2014; 70:85-90.
  • Chen DS, Betz J, Yaffe K, Ayonayon HN, Kritchevsky S, Martin KR, Harris TB, Purchase-Helzner E, Satterfield S, Xue QL, Pratt S, Simonsick EM, Lin FR for the Health ABC study. Association of hearing impairment with declines in physical functioning and the risk of disability in older adults. J Gerentol A Biomed Sci Med Sci 2014: 5:654-661.
  • Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD; Kristine Yaffe, MD; Jin Xia, MS; Qian-Li Xue, PhD; Tamara B. Harris, MD, MS; Elizabeth Purchase-Helzner, PhD; Suzanne Satterfield, MD, DrPH; Hilsa N. Ayonayon, PhD; Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD; Eleanor M. Simonsick, PhD; for the Health ABC Study Group. Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults.  JAMA Intern Med 2013; 173:293-299.
  • Anziska Y, Helzner EP, Crystal H, Glexby MJ, Plankey M, Weber K, Golub E, Burian P. The relationship between race and HIV-distal sensory polyneuropathy in a large cohort of US women.  Journal of the Neurological Sciences 2012; 315:129-132.
  • Helzner EP, Patel AS, Pratt S, Sutton-Tyrrell K, Cauley JA, Talbott EO, Kenyon E, Harris TB, Satterfield S, Ding J, Newman AB. Hearing Sensitivity in Older Adults: Associations with cardiovascular risk factors in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study.  Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2011:972-979.
  • Helzner EP, Luchsinger J, Scarmeas N, Cosentino S, Brickman A, Glymour MM, Stern Y. Vascular risk factors and disease progression in Alzheimer’s Disease.  Archives of Neurology 2009;66(3):343-348.
  • Portet F, Scarmeas N, Cosentino S, Helzner EP, Stern Y. Extrapyramidal signs before and after the diagnosis of incident Alzheimer disease in a prospective population study.  Archives of Neurology, 2009 66(9):1120-6.
  • Cosentino, S, Scarmeas, N, Helzner, E, Glymour, M.M, Brandt, J, Albert, M, Blacker, D, & Stern, Y. APOE e4 allele predicts faster decline in mild Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology 2008; 70:1842-1849.
  • Helzner EP, Scarmeas N, Cosentino S, Tang M-X, Stern Y.   Survival after Diagnosis of Alzheimers Disease: Results from a population based study of incident cases.  Neurology 2008; 71 (19):1489-95.
  • Helzner EP, Scarmeas N, Cosentino S, Portet F, Stern Y. Leisure activity and cognitive decline in incident Alzheimer’s Disease. Archives of Neurology 2007; 64 (12):1749-1754.
  • Helzner EP, Cauley JA, Pratt SR, Wisniewski SR, Zmuda JM, Talbott EO. Race and sex differences in age-related hearing loss: The health, aging and body composition study. Noise Health 2006; 8:62
  • Helzner EP, Cauley JA, Pratt SR, Wisniewski S, Talbott EO, Zmuda JM, Harris TB, Rubin S, Taaffe DR, Tylavsky FA, Newman AB. Hearing sensitivity and bone mineral density in older adults:  The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study.  Osteoporosis International 2005; 16:1675-1682.
  • Helzner EP, Cauley JA, Pratt SR, Wisniewski S, Zmuda JM, Talbott EO, de Rekeniere N, Harris T, Rubin S, Simonsick EM, Tylavsky FA, Newman AB. Race and gender differences in hearing sensitivity: The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study.  Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2005; 53 (12): 2119-2127.
  • Purchase-Helzner EL, Cauley JA, Faulkner KA, Pratt S, Zmuda JM, Talbott EO, Hochberg MC, Stone K, Newman A. Hearing sensitivity, falls and fracture in older women: The Study of Osteoporotic Fractures.  Annals of Epidemiology 2004; 14:311-318.
  • Chapters. Helzner EP. Age-Related Hearing Loss.  in Cauley JA and Newman AB, eds. Epidemiology of Aging. New York, NY: Springer; 2012:345-357.
Grants, Research, and Contract Awards 



  • HRSA 1 U1QHP33077­01­00   Cohen (PD) 

Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program 

$750,000/year x 5 years 

A five-year award to enhance interprofessional geriatrics education and healthcare in the Brooklyn, NY. This program targets healthcare trainees across the professions and Brooklyn’s primary care providers.  

Role: Faculty