What Are We Doing?

The Center for the Study of Chronic Illness and Disability (CCID) advances evidence-based clinical and programmatic research in the field of human disability, with the goal of improving the health and function of persons with chronic illness such as cancer or arthritis, or disabling conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy. CCID initiates research to better understand the causes, prevention, and amelioration of primary and secondary disabling conditions, as well as restoration of function and independent living. Our studies inform physicians and local, state, national and international policy makers on all aspects of rehabilitation and health for persons with long-term disabilities.

Our interdisciplinary faculty holds advanced degrees in rehabilitation medicine, health services research, social work, biostatistics, epidemiology, neuroscience and related fields.

Areas of Emphasis


  • Explore fatigue within the context of chronic illness and disability
  • Explore mechanisms of and treatment for fatigue
  • Develop a sensitive, specific, and robust measure of fatigue

Disability and Function

  • Develop, test, and disseminate instruments to evaluate function
  • Develop, test, and disseminate results of treatment trials designed to ameliorate or prevent disabilities and restore function
  • Explore the scientific basis for understanding the relationships between chronic illness and disability

Disability and Health

  • Study the role of exercise in preventing secondary disabilities
  • Inform consumer choice
  • Develop, test, and disseminate population-based measures of quality of care

We Investigate Questions Such As:

  • How can external review agencies measure the quality of care for people with disabilities?
  • How can physiatrists and other physicians measure clinical improvements in physical function?
  • What are the relationships between chronic illness and disability? Are persons with disability at risk for developing chronic illness?
  • What are our best measurement tools to evaluate frequently seen symptoms associated with disability (e.g., fatigue) in order to determine how they impact function and well-being?

Research Program:

The research activities are driven by CCID faculty. The program-driven research within the CCID requires collaborative research with basic and clinical scientists across George Mason University and extramurally. Our research interests are aimed at elucidating the biology of disability and exploring its relationships with chronic illnesses. Examples include:

  1. Exploration of the possible molecular basis of disability pertinent to the neuromusculoskeletal system, and characterization of genetic and physiological factors that might predict the likelihood of becoming disabled, and possibly severely disabled (e.g., mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, amount of lean mass, anaerobic thresholds, pain thresholds, etc.). Investigation of questions such as: What must occur to stimulate muscle hypertrophy in response to exercise, or conversely, atrophy in response to disuse? Why do some individuals have minimal loss with disuse and some have little response to exercise designed to increase muscle mass?
  2. Exploration of neurohormonal and metabolic processes using microanalytic (i.e., nanotechnologies), imaging technologies, such as ultrasound and Doppler technologies. Assessment of the usefulness of patient self-reported measures and their relationship with the biological markers, to better understand issues of motivation and behavior as it relates to disability and restoration of function.
  3. Pursuit of clinical research opportunities to identify factors associated with successful rehabilitation and restoration of function.
  4. Design of treatments, based on data analyses, that may reduce or prevent disability, maintain and restore function and further explore how chronic disease influences disability and vice versa. Assessment of rehabilitative strategy effectiveness in producing desired effects at the level of an individual’s functioning within their unique environment for selected chronic illnesses.
  5. Development of collaborative research (translational and clinical) opportunities. These efforts will be collaborative among faculty on the Prince William (molecular biology) and Fairfax (imaging and exercise physiology) campuses; with clinical affiliations at the Inova Health System, Clinical Center, NIH, National Naval Medical Center and other extramural clinical affiliations.

Active Protocols

Lynn Gerber

  • Comparison of Physical and Cognitive Fatigue in Women with Breast Cancer
  • Identification of Contributors to Human Functional Movements in Real and Virtual Environments
  • Classification of Soft Tissue Pain Syndromes

Ali Weinstein

  • Identifying and Understanding How to Make Rehabilitation Research and Information Relevant to TBI, SCI, and Burn Injury Patients, Caregivers, and Clinicians
  • Effect of an Acute Bout of Exercise on the Affect of Sedentary Individuals and Individuals with Depressive Symptomatology
  • Fairfax Housing Health Survey

Currently Funded Projects

American Institutes for Research (National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)

Dr. Ali Weinstein is the principal investigator for a NIDILRR Model Systems and Knowledge Translation Center grant, for the period of 2016-2021. Total direct costs are estimated at $40,000.

Inova Health System

Dr. Ali Weinstein is the principal investigator of a Clinical Research Education grant, awarded by Inova Health Care for the period of 2014-2017. Total direct costs are $90,000.

Previous Funding Sources

  • PNC Charitable Trust
  • National Science Foundation
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
  • Economic Systems, Inc.
  • Dominion Guild
  • Henry Jackson Foundation
  • George Mason University Internal Funding