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 Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Work in the College of Public Health. Her interdisciplinary, community-based research focuses on the interventions, policies, and system changes necessary to eliminate health inequities and improve lives across the lifespan and especially for older people. 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. Her work also assesses the effectiveness of community-based and creative arts interventions on mood, agitation, and behavioral difficulties among older people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) and the social environmental factors that prevent underserved populations from achieving optimal health outcomes. 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.


Research Interests

  • Social determinants of health and mental health
  • Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD)
  • Community-based and creative arts interventions
  • Social policy and system change


  • Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C. J., Pantleay, H.*, Barrett, K.*, Holden, M.*, Velazquez-Dominguez, V.*, Ivey, K., Waters, L., & Marrs, S. A. (2024). “Don’t treat us like fragile babies”: Mentors’ perspectives of an intergenerational mentoring program for medical students. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/15350770.2024.2310654
  • Matto, H. C., Ihara, E. S., Cieslowski, B., Hines, D., & Booth, J.  (2023). Virtual reality case simulation to build skill competencies in working with substance-engaged clients. Social Work Education. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2023.2289452
  • Pomeroy, M. L., Cudjoe, T. K. M., Cuellar, A. E., Ihara, E. S., Ornstein, K. A., Bollens-Lund, E., Kotwal, A. A., & Gimm, G. (2023). Association of social isolation with hospitalization and nursing home entry among community-dwelling older adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 183(9), 955–962. https://doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2023.3064
  • Dhokai, N., Matto H. C., Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C. J., Caswell, S. V., Cortes, N., Davis, R., Coogan, S. M.*, Fauntroy, V. N.*, Glass, E., Lee, J., Baraniecki-Zwil, G.*, & Ambegaonkar, J. P. (2023). Community arts engagement supports perceptions of personal growth in older adults.  Journal of Aging Studies, 66, 101142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2023.101142
  • Hand, M. D., & Ihara, E. S. (2023). Ageism, racism, sexism, and work with older healthcare clients: Why an intersectional approach is needed in practice, policy, education, and research. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 98(1), 27–38. https://doi.org/10.1177/00914150231171843
  • Inoue, M., Li, M-H, Layman, S., Tompkins, C. J., & Ihara, E. S. (2022). Characteristics of nursing facilities and staff willingness to implement a non-pharmacological intervention. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, 8, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1177/23337214221146410
  • Matto, H. C., Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C. J., McNeil, K.*, Lopez-Piper, A.*, Eber, M.*, Dhokai, N., Davis, R., Cortes, N., Caswell, S., Coogan, S.*, Fauntroy, V., Glass, E., Baraniecki Zwil, G.*, & Ambegaonkar, J. (2021). A novel participant-empowered pedagogical approach to engage and retain control group participants in arts-based randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Families in Society, 102(4), 529-537. https://doi.org/10.1177/1044389421997356
  • Tompkins, C. J., Ihara, E. S., Inoue, M., Ferenz, J.*, & Pham, S.* (2020). A web-based training program for direct care workers in long-term care communities: Providing knowledge and skills to implement a music and memory intervention. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, 41(3), 367-379. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701960.2019.1699074
  • Ihara, E. S., & Lee, J. S. (2019). Agent-based modeling: Value added to social work research. Families in Society, 100(3), 305–311. https://doi.org/10.1177/1044389419842764
  • Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C. J., Inoue, M., & Sonneman, S. (2019). Results from a person  centered music intervention for individuals living with dementia. Geriatrics & Gerontology International, 19, 30–34. https://doi.org/10.1111/ggi.13563

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.

Honors and Awards

  • Shirley S. Travis Habit of Excellence Award, George Mason University, College of Health and Human Services, 2021

  • Elected Fellow, Gerontological Society of America, 2018

  • Excellence in Memory Care Award (Mason Music & Memory Team), Insight Memory Care Center, 2016

  • 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