Emily Ihara, PhD, MSW, FGSA

Emily Ihara
Titles and Organizations

Professor and Chair, Social Work

Contact Information

Email: eihara@gmu.edu
Phone: 703-993-2023
Building: Peterson Hall
Room 3623

Personal Websites


Dr. Emily S. Ihara is a professor and chair of the Department of Social Work. Ihara’s research interests focus on interventions, policies, and system changes necessary to eliminate health inequities for vulnerable populations across the life course. She uses a mixture of quantitative, qualitative, and agent-based modeling techniques to identify the conditions that may lead to health inequities and the subsequent policy levers and interventions that may work to decrease and eliminate them. Prior to coming to Mason, Ihara was a Congressional Health Policy Fellow in the House of Representatives and has previously worked as a researcher, policy analyst, and clinical social worker for various organizations.

University Service

  • Founding Faculty Member & Co-Director, Social Work integrative Research Lab (SWiRL), 2015–present
  • Reviewer, OSCAR Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, 2014–present
  • Chapter Advisor, Chi Chapter, Phi Alpha Honor Society, 2013–present
  • Member, OSCAR Assessment and Program Design Committee, George Mason University, 2014–2017
  • Member, Academic Program Review Committee, George Mason University, 2013–2016
  • Member, Medical Sciences Advisory Committee, George Mason University, 2011–2013

Community Service

  • Member, Community Advisory Committee, Fairfax County Community Health Care Network, 2007–present
  • Co-Chair, Symposium on Organ Transplantation, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, 2017
  • Planning Committee, Rally in the Valley, 2016
  • Session Chair: “Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Aging and Mental Health” for the 68th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America, 2015
  • Planning Committee, Rally in the Valley, 2012
  • Member, Japanese American Citizens League, Washington DC Chapter, 2001–2013
  • Member, Local Arrangements Committee, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education 38th Annual Meeting, 2011–2012
  • Co-President, Japanese American Citizens League, Washington DC Chapter, 2008–2010
  • Moderator, “Lobbying 202,” for the 6th Biennial Policy Practice Forum, Washington, DC, 2009
  • Co-Chair, Steering Committee, 6th Biennial Policy Practice Forum, Washington, DC, 2008–2009
  • Member, Planning Committee, Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, Forum 2009, 2008–2009
  • Session Organizer, Presider, & Discussant: “Health, Health Policy, and Health Services Roundtables,” for the 59th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2008–2009
  • Session Co-Organizer & Presider: “Race, Ethnicity, Migration and Health,” for the 59th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2008–2009
  • Session Co-Organizer, “Contemporary Issues for Workers at Home and Abroad,” for the 59th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2008–2009
  • Co-Chair, Health, Health Policy, and Health Services Division, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2007–2009
  • Member, Nominating Committee, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2007–2009
  • Session Organizer, “Boundaries of Race, Ethnicity, and Class: Inclusion and Exclusion in Health,” for the 58th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2007–2008
  • Co-Chair, Steering Committee, 5th Biennial Policy Practice Forum, Washington, DC, 2007–2008
  • Board Member, Japanese American Citizens League, Washington DC Chapter, 2002–2008


Research Interests

  • Social determinants of health
  • Health inequities
  • Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias
  • Health outcomes for vulnerable populations
  • Social policy and system change


*indicates graduate student author; **indicates undergraduate student author

Inoue, M., Ihara, E. S., & Terillion, A. (in press). Making your wishes known: Who completes an advance directive and shares it with their health care team or loved ones? Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Inoue, M., Cordisco Tsai, L., Lee, J. S., Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C. J., Aguimatang, J.**, Fountain, K.*, & Hudson, S.* (2017). Creating an integrative research learning environment for BSW and MSW students. Journal of Social Work Education. doi: https://10.1080/10437797.2017.1287027

Kennedy, W. G., Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C. J., Inoue, M., & Wolf-Branigin, M. E. (2015). Computational modeling of caregiver stress. Journal on Policy and Complex Systems, 2(1), 31–43.

Matto, H. C., Tompkins, C. J., Ihara, E. S., Inoue, M., & Byrd, A.* (2015). Results from a Music, Imagery, and Movement (MiM) treatment intervention in a long-term care facility. Families in Society, 96(4), 277–283.

Ihara, E. S., Kennedy, W. G., Tompkins, C. J., & Wolf-Branigin, M. E. (2015). Long-term dementia care: Modeling the decision process. Proceedings of the 24th Annual Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation Conference (BRiMS), pp. 59–62.

Ihara, E. S., Chae, D. H., Cummings, J. R., & Lee, S. (2013). Correlates of mental health service use and type among Asian Americans. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-013-0493-5

Vakalahi, H. F. O., Ihara, E. S., & Hafoka, M. P. (2013). Family roots: Sustenance for Samoan and Tongan American elders. Journal of Family Strengths, 13(1), Article 3.

Lee, S., O’Neill, A., Ihara, E. S., & Chae, D. H. (2013). Change in self-reported health status among immigrants in the United States: Associations with measures of acculturation. PLoS ONE, 8(10), e76494. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0076494

Wang, D., Ihara, E. S., Chonody, J., & Krase, K. (2013). Social work faculty interest in aging: Impact of education, knowledge, comfort, and experience. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, 34, 257–271. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701960.2012.718010

Ihara, E. S., Horio, B. M., & Tompkins, C. J. (2012). Grandchildren caring for grandparents: Modeling the complexity of family caregiving. Journal of Social Service Research, 38, 619–636. https://doi.org/10.1080/01488376.2012.711684

Ihara, E. S., Wolf-Branigin, M., & White, P. (2012). Quality of life and life skill baseline measures of urban adolescents with disabilities. Social Work in Public Health, 27, 658–670. https://doi.org/10.1080/19371910903269596

Cleaveland, C., & Ihara, E. S. (2012). “They treat us like pests”: Undocumented immigrants’ experiences with health care in the wake of a “crackdown” ordinance. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22, 771–788. https://doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2012.704781

Ihara, E. S., & Vakalahi, H. F. O. (2012). Collective worldviews and health of Pacific American elders. Educational Gerontology, 38, 400–411. https://doi.org/10.1080/03601277.2011.559852

Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C. J., & Sonethavilay, H.* (2012). Culture and familism: A grandparent-headed household case study. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 10(1), 34–47. https://10.1080/15350770.2012.645737

Tompkins, C. J., Ihara, E. S., Cusick, A., & Park, N. S. (2012). “Maintaining connections but wanting more”: The continuity of familial relationships among assisted living residents. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 55, 249–261. https://doi.org/10.1080/01634372.2011.639439

Chae, D. H., Lee, S., Lincoln, K. D., & Ihara, E. S. (2012). Discrimination, family relationships, and major depression among Asian Americans. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 14, 361–370. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-011-9548-4

Ihara, E. S., & Vakalahi, H. F. O. (2011). Spirituality: The essence of wellness among Tongan and Samoan elders. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 30, 405–421. https://doi.org/10.1080/15426432.2011.619916

Ihara, E. S. (2011). Exploring the socioeconomic and immigration health contexts of Asian Americans. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 21, 521–539. https://doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2011.580239

Vakalahi, H. F. O., & Ihara, E. S. (2011). Research with indigenous cultures: A case study analysis of Tongan grandparents. Families in Society, 92(2), 230–235. https://doi.org/10.1606/1044-3894.4105

Tompkins, C. J., Ernst, J. S., Ihara, E. S., Clark, P. G. (2011). Two birds with one stone: Using CSWE competencies to infuse Gero-Ed experiences. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 16(1), 63–83.

Ihara, E. S. (2009). Ethnicity matters: The socioeconomic gradient in health among Asian Americans. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 36(2), 125–144.

Wolf-Branigin, M., Suh, H.-S., Muir, S., & Ihara, E. S. (2009). Applying census data for small area estimation in community and social service planning. Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods, 8(1), 299–305.

Wolf-Branigin, M., Ihara, E. S., White, P., & Shuman, E.* (2008). Parental engagement in developing life skills of adolescents with disabilities. The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, 8(3), 41–48.

Book Chapters, Sections, and Reviews

Wolf-Branigin, M., Kennedy, W., Ihara, E. S., & Tompkins, C. (2016). Applying complexity science to social programme evaluation. In E. Mitleton-Kelly, A. Paraskevas, & C. Day (Eds.), The handbook of research methods in complexity science and application. London, UL: Edward Elgar.

Rosenthal Gelman, C., Tompkins, C. J., & Ihara, E. S. (2014). The complexities of caregiving for minority older adults: Rewards and challenges. In K. E. Whitfield & T. A. Baker (Eds.), Handbook of Minority Aging (pp. 313–327). New York, NY: Springer.

Ritchie, D. J., Tompkins, C. J., & Ihara, E. S. (2013). Integrative methods in social action and social change: Community-building for human rights. In M.C. Hokenstad, L. M. Healy, & U. A. Segal (Eds.), Teaching Human Rights: Curriculum resources for social work educators. Alexandria, VA: CSWE Press.

Ihara, E. S. (2012). [Review of the book Family practices in later life, by P. Chambers, G. Allan, C. Phillipson, & M. Ray]. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 55, 462–463. doi:10.1080/01634372.2012.691418

Ihara, E. S. (2008). Human trafficking. In: V. Parrillo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of social problems (Vol. 1, pp. 461–463). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ihara, E. S. (2008). Post-traumatic stress disorder. In: V. Parrillo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of social problems (Vol. 2, pp. 696–697). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ihara, E. S., & Takeuchi, D. T. (2004). Racial and ethnic minorities. In: B. L. Levin, J. Petrila, & K. Hennessy (Eds.), Mental health services: A public health perspective (2nd ed., pp. 310–329). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


“A Web-based Training Program for Direct Care Workers in Long-term Care Communities: Providing Knowledge and Skills to Implement a Music & Memory Intervention,” Virginia Center on Aging, Geriatric Training and Education Award Fund. Tompkins, C. (Principal Investigator), 2017-2018. Role: Co-Investigator. $20,000.

“Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program,” Subcontract from Virginia Commonwealth University for a Health Resources and Services Administration award. Tompkins, C. (Principal Investigator), 2015-2018. Role: Co-Principal Investigator. $30,000.

“Human Organ Trafficking, Social Networks, International Security,” Provost Seed Grant, Multidisciplinary Research Projects. Wijesekera, D., 2016-2017. Role: Co-Principal Investigator. $50,000.

“Social Work integrative Research Lab (SWiRL) Project,” Students as Scholars Scholarship Development Grant. With Tsai, L.C., Inoue, M., Lee, J., & Tompkins, C., 2016-2017. Role: Co-Principal Investigator. $47,500.

“Impacts of the 2011 MIPPA Bundled Payment System on ESRD Care Provision: A Patient Outcome Comparison between Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis Modalities,” Provost Seed Grant, Multidisciplinary Health Research Projects. Koizumi, N. (Principal Investigator), 2015-2016. Role: Co-Principal Investigator. $50,000.

“Assessing Mobile Health Technologies for Medication Compliance and Nutrition Tracking for Possible Use by Kidney Transplant Candidates.” Koizumi, N. (Principal Investigator), 2015-2016. Role: Co-Principal Investigator. $25,000.

“Individuals with Dementia at Adult Day Health Care Centers: Examining the Effects of Individualized Music on Mood and Agitation,” Virginia Center on Aging, Alzheimer’s & Related Diseases Research Award Fund. Tompkins, C. (Principal Investigator), 2015-2016. Role: Co-Principal Investigator. $45,000.

“Examining the Effects of the Music, Imagery, and Movement (MiM) Treatment Intervention on Emotional and Cognitive Functioning of Residents in Long-Term Care,” National Endowment for the Arts. Matto, H. (Principal Investigator), 2014-2016. Role: Co-Investigator. $25,000.

“BSW Curriculum Development Grant,” Students as Scholars, Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research. With Tompkins, C., Clark, P., Prudden, K., Davis, M., Lee, J., & Tsai, L.C., 2014-2016. Role: Co-Principal Investigator. $30,100.

“Evaluation of the Aging Mastery Program,” National Council on Aging. 2013-2014. Role: Principal Investigator. $10,000.

Honors and Awards


  • Selected Participant, 2017, Future Leaders in Social Work Education Program, National Association of Deans and Directors, Schools of Social Work
  • Honorable Mention, 2011, Betty J. Cleckley Minority Issues Research Award, Aging and Public Health Section, American Public Health Association
  • Selected Participant, 2011–2012, National Institute on Aging (NIA)-supported Eighth Annual Institute on Aging and Social Work, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN
  • Emerging Scholars Interdisciplinary Network, 2010-2011, Fellowship Program in Applied Multi-Ethnic Research at ICPSR, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Master Teacher Award, 2010, College of Health and Human Services, George Mason University
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-supported training on the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys (CPES), 2008, University of Michigan, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICSPR), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections Research and Coaching Clinic, 2007, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • H. Jack Geiger Congressional Health Policy Fellowship, 2005-2006, W. K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in Health Policy Research, 1999-2004, W. K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Okura Mental Health Leadership Foundation Fellowship, 2000, Okura Mental Health Leadership Foundation
  • NIMH Intensive Case Management Project stipend, University of California, Los Angeles, 1992–1993, NIMH
  • Title IV-E Public Child Welfare Inter-University Consortium stipend, University of California, Los Angeles, 1992, Title IV-E Public Child Welfare Inter-University Consortium
  • Alpha Kappa Delta, Sociology Honor Society, University of California, Berkeley, 1990, Alpha Kappa Delta




  • PhD, Social Policy, Brandeis University
  • MA, Social Policy, Brandeis University
  • MSW, Social Welfare, University of California at Los Angeles
  • AB, Sociology, University of California at Berkeley