About Us

Emily S. Ihara
 is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Work. Dr. Ihara’s research interests focus on interventions, policies, and system changes necessary to eliminate health inequities for vulnerable populations across the life course. Her current research assesses the effectiveness of community-based and creative arts interventions on mood, agitation, and behavioral difficulties among older individuals living with dementia, decision-making among caregivers, and the social environmental factors that prevent underserved populations from achieving optimal health outcomes. Dr. Ihara is a graduate of UC Berkeley (A.B.), UCLA (M.S.W.), and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University (Ph.D., M.A.). She received Fellow status of the Gerontological Society of America in 2018.


Megumi Inoue is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work. Her research focuses on health and aging, and she is particularly interested in end-of-life issues and patients’ autonomy in health care settings. Dr. Inoue’s recent research projects include examining factors associated with the behavior of sharing advance directives with one’s family and health care providers, developing advance care planning training with a focus on cultural competency for staff in long-term care facilities, and exploring the effects of culturally sensitive companions for institutionalized older adults. Dr. Inoue brings her extensive clinical experience as a social worker and a registered nurse to her understanding of these research areas. She received her Ph.D. from Boston College (Graduate School of Social Work), MSW from Washington University in St. Louis (Brown School of Social Work), BSW from Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare in Japan (Department of Medical Social Welfare), and ADN from Kyushu University in Japan (College of Medical Technology Department of Nursing).


Cathy Tompkins is the Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work. She is interested in developing new programs for undergraduate students and developing innovations in distance education. Dr. Tompkins has been pursuing two research tracks since arriving at Mason: 1) The need for interventions for individuals with dementia and their caregivers and 2) an exploration of the potential caregiving relationship that exists between grandparents and grandchildren residing within grandparent-headed households. She reviews manuscripts for several journals, has affiliations with several state and national organizations, and participates on advisory boards for two community-based agencies.  Prior to joining Mason, Dr. Tompkins served as Director of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) and as the Program Coordinator for the John A. Hartford funded project, Strengthening Aging and Gerontological Education in Social Work (SAGE-SW).


Shannon Layman is the Project Coordinator for the Mason Music and Memory Initiative and Mason CARES. She received her Ph.D. in Cognition and Neuroscience with a specialization in Music Cognition from the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Layman’s research focused on understanding how we process short clips of familiar and unfamiliar mainstream popular songs. Prior to moving to Virginia Dr. Layman was an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Arlington since 2013. She received nominations for numerous teaching awards and received the College of Science Teaching Excellence award in 2019. In 2018 she helped found the Musical Memory Singers, a 501(c)3 community chorus for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their care partners, community members, and UT Arlington students in Dr. Layman’s Adulthood and Aging course. The chorus members continue to joyfully sing.

George Mason University, College of Health and Human Services, Department of Social Work

The mission of the George Mason Department of Social Work is to conduct applied social science research that aims to solve personal and social problems and investigates systemic inequities in power and unequal access to resources. This mission is fulfilled by seeking to identify and develop effective interventions based on scientific theory; engaging in public service that cultivates community partnerships, enhances capacity, and provides technical expertise to human service organizations caring for diverse local, national and global communities.