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Health and Human Services - The Center for Study of Chronic Illness and Disability

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

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
  • Develop, test, and disseminate techniques for tele-rehabilitation

Disability and Health

  • Evaluate disability competent care coordination organizations (DCCOs)
  • 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 telemedicine be used to improve access to rehabilitation services?
  • How can we train health plans and clinics to become "disability competent” providers?
  • 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
  • Effect of Prescribed Aerobic Exercise Vs Self-selected Activity in Treatment of Breast Cancer Related Fatigue
  • Identification of Contributors to Human Functional Movements in Real and Virtual Environments
  • Classification of Soft Tissue Pain Syndromes

Ali Weinstein

  • A Look Back Study on a Population of Hepatitis C Patients
  • American Institute of Research's (AIR) Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC)
  • Assessing Physical Activity Preferences in an Aging Minority Population
  • Effect of an Acute Bout of Exercise on the Affect of Sedentary Individuals and Individuals with Depressive Symptomatology
  • Fairfax Housing Health Survey
  • Rowing and Dragonboat Paddling as Beneficial Upper Body Exercise for Breast Cancer Survivors on US BCS Teams

Funded Projects

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

Dr. Ali Weinstein is the principal investigator and Dr. Lynn Gerber is the co-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.

Dr. Weinstein was also the co-investigator for the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center subcontract between 2011-2016. Total direct costs were estimated at $400,000.

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.

The College of Health and Human Services has contracted, through a MOU with INOVA Health System, a project to help develop an Outcomes Measurement Center. Dr. Gerber is the Medical Director, and her responsibilities include developing collaborative research initiatives in biomedical research for the two institutions. Outcome measurements sought include biological, physical functioning and psychosocial.

PNC Charitable Trust

Dr. Ali Weinstein was the co-investigator of the grant titled, Effect of Prescribed Aerobic Exercise vs. Self-Selected Activity in Treatment of Breast Cancer-Related Fatigue, which lasted from 2014-2015. Total direct costs were $52,221.

Mason Summer Research Funding for Tenure-Track Faculty

Dr. Ali Weinstein was the principal investigator of the 2013 grant, Comparison between Peripheral and Central Fatigue in Women with Breast Cancer. Total direct costs were $4,500.

National Science Foundation

The CCID is the recipient of a grant from the National Science Foundation. The award is $500,000.00 for the period of Sept. 1, 2007-August 30, 2011 and is to be used to develop a comprehensive measurement system to evaluate upper extremity motion. This project has enabled the purchase of equipment designed to capture data from three different perspectives, kinetic, kinematic and electromyographic. These data are being collected and integrated using novel software approaches to describe functional human motion.

Mason-Inova Life Sciences Research Collaboration Fund

Dr. Ali Weinstein was the principal investigator on a grant titled, Cardiovascular Reactivity to Mental Stress in Coronary Artery Bypass and Maze Surgery Patients. The award lasted from 2010-2013 and total direct costs amounted to $49,506.

Henry Jackson Foundation

Drs. Lynn Gerber and Ali Weinstein received awards from the Henry Jackson Foundation totaling $598,700.00 for research associated with traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Weinstein was the principal investigator for A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of the BrainPort™ Balance Device When Used to Improve Postural Control in Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury. The award was granted by the Foundation’s Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine and spanned from 2010-2012.

Economic Systems, Inc.

The CCID received $79,000 from Economic Systems, Inc. to study vocational rehabilitation and to implement an employment service evaluation in 2008. project assessed the relationships among disability, function, and work loss in the veteran population.

Dominion Guild

The Dominion Guild donated $12,000.00 to the Center to support student wage staff for Breast Cancer research.


Dr. Lynn Gerber was the co-investigator for an RO1 titled Pathogenesis and Pathophysiological Mechanisms of Myofascial Trigger Points. Total funding was nearly $2,000,000.

The CCID has received $110,000.00 from NIH’s intramural program to support clinical research to determine the mechanisms by which rehabilitation interventions improve functional outcomes in patients with primary and secondary pulmonary hypertension. This was a collaboration among INOVA-Fairfax Hospital, NIH, and Mason. It was a multi-disciplinary enterprise which included physical and psycho-social outcomes.

The CCID received a donation of equipment from the NIH to help in the establishment of CCID’s Research Lab. The equipment was valued at over $40,000.00.

College of Health and Human Services

The College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University provided the Center with $60,000.00 to purchase new lab equipment. CCID’s Performance Lab is now in operation.

Donor Support

The CCID has received philanthropic contributions from donors contributing to the Foundation for George Mason University. Two of these donors directly support student research projects.

Vinson Hall Retirement Community

An internally funded project with Vinson Hall retirement community, funded through CCID resources, supported by the College and the Foundation, has enabled an assessment of the nature of the elements that determine independence among community dwelling elders.


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Phone: 703-993-3070