Dr. Emily S. Ihara

I am a social worker, educator, and researcher at George Mason University.

I am passionate about creative arts and eliminating health inequities, especially for older adults, people living with dementia and their families, and marginalized populations.

Operating as usual

Events 03/24/2021

I highly recommend this Bystander Intervention to stop anti-Asian/American and xenophobic harrassment. Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and Hollaback! have created an excellent training and these skills are transferable whenever you see injustice happening. https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org/events

Events Join us at an upcoming event!


Honored to have an Asian American woman and social worker in the VA House of Delegates to amplify these issues. Choose to act and .

Thank you to the GMU Social Work Department for hosting a virtual candlelight vigil tonight in honor of those lost in the Atlanta shooting. We must honor their lives with action to in Virginia and around the world.

Photos from NAPAWF*New York City's post 03/22/2021

NAPAWF New York City released this excellent statement.

Anti-Asian Violence Resources 03/21/2021

Anti-Asian Violence Resources Anti-Asian racism and violent attacks on Asian elderly have only increased in recent months. Since COVID-19 became news in the United States, hate speech and violence against the AAPI community has run rampant. In February 2021, attacks, particularly on elderly Asian Americans, have spiked. Unfortun...

Day of Remembrance 2021 02/19/2021

On this Day of Remembrance of the 79th anniversary of EO 9066, I remember the injustices that my community has endured and am ever grateful for those who stood up and fought against the mass incarceration of nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States. It is deeply disturbing that the NYPD has reported that anti-Asian hate crimes jumped 1,900% in New York city in 2020 and that 2021 has seen an uptick in anti-Asian violence nationwide and particularly in major cities. We must all work harder to combat the unending and constant acts of hate and violence that continue to plague marginalized populations everywhere.


Day of Remembrance 2021 FACEism: A panel discussion of history and accountabilityFriday, February 19, 20216–7:15 p.m. EST, online

Timeline photos 01/21/2021

So much wisdom on this beautiful day!

“But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
And might with right,
Then love becomes our legacy…”

- Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate; excerpt from “The Hill We Climb”, spoken at the 2021 presidential inauguration

I’m feeling uplifted today :)

H. Jack Geiger, Doctor Who Fought Social Ills, Dies at 95 12/29/2020

I have always been grateful for every opportunity that I had to learn from and be mentored by Dr. Geiger. He was such an inspiration and it was a true honor to be a W. K. Kellogg Foundation H. Jack Geiger Congressional Health Policy Fellow in 2005-06.


H. Jack Geiger, Doctor Who Fought Social Ills, Dies at 95 He used medicine to take on poverty, racism and the threat of nuclear destruction. Two groups he helped start won Nobel Peace Prizes.

Dying in a Leadership Vacuum | NEJM 10/08/2020

Written by the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine:

“...truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”


Dying in a Leadership Vacuum | NEJM Editorial from The New England Journal of Medicine — Dying in a Leadership Vacuum

Walk to End Alzheimer's | Alzheimer's Association 09/10/2020

Join our Mason Social Work Gero Research Team as we Walk to End Alzheimer's on October 10. We'd love to walk with you virtually!

Walk to End Alzheimer's | Alzheimer's Association The Walk to End Alzheimer's is the world's largest event to fight Alzheimer's. Join now and help raise awareness and funds for care, support and research.


Story highlighting President Washington’s Anti-Racism Inclusive Excellence Taskforce.


Fifty-seven years ago today, hundreds of thousands of Americans of every race and religion, from every corner of our country, came together to march on Washington for jobs and freedom. We saw echoes of that march in this summer’s demonstrations, sparked by the killing of George Floyd—a movement for systemic reform that became the largest in our history.

To see such brutality happen again—this time, a police officer shooting Jacob Blake in the back as his young children looked on—is a reminder of how deeply ingrained unequal justice is, and how long change will take.

Whether Atlanta, Louisville, Minneapolis, or Kenosha, each act of brutality, each death, should sear our conscience as individuals and as a country. What we can do is to continue channeling our anguish into organized action—to demand reforms to police practices; to elect new prosecutors and local leaders, who determine much of the tone and tactics of public safety and law enforcement; to keep giving strength to those who’ve long felt like they were marching alone, and courage to those who are newly doing the hard work of changing their own hearts.

If you’re looking to take action—or looking to educate yourselves on these issues—we’ve gathered some resources from the Obama Foundation that can help at obama.org/anguish-and-action.

As people exercise their right to protest all across the country—in Washington and virtually, from basketball courts to baseball diamonds—let the undeniable paths of our progress be a guide going forward: peaceful, sustained protest; strategic, committed organizing; and purposeful, overwhelming participation at the ballot box. As Americans, we are called to engage in them all—every day of this election and every day after—until the scourge of hatred and injustice truly have no place in our society.


Rest in Power, Congressman Lewis. You will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come.

America is a constant work in progress. What gives each new generation purpose is to take up the unfinished work of the last and carry it further - to speak out for what's right, to challenge an unjust status quo, and to imagine a better world.

John Lewis - one of the original Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Member of Congress representing the people of Georgia for 33 years - not only assumed that responsibility, he made it his life's work. He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.

Considering his enormous impact on the history of this country, what always struck those who met John was his gentleness and humility. Born into modest means in the heart of the Jim Crow South, he understood that he was just one of a long line of heroes in the struggle for racial justice. Early on, he embraced the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as the means to bring about real change in this country, understanding that such tactics had the power not only to change laws, but to change hearts and minds as well.

In so many ways, John's life was exceptional. But he never believed that what he did was more than any citizen of this country might do. He believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity for great courage, a longing to do what's right, a willingness to love all people, and to extend to them their God-given rights to dignity and respect. And it's because he saw the best in all of us that he will continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon in that long journey towards a more perfect union.

I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes. Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders. When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made. And through all those years, he never stopped providing wisdom and encouragement to me and Michelle and our family. We will miss him dearly.

It's fitting that the last time John and I shared a public forum was at a virtual town hall with a gathering of young activists who were helping to lead this summer's demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's death. Afterwards, I spoke to him privately, and he could not have been prouder of their efforts - of a new generation standing up for freedom and equality, a new generation intent on voting and protecting the right to vote, a new generation running for political office. I told him that all those young people - of every race, from every background and gender and sexual orientation - they were his children. They had learned from his example, even if they didn't know it. They had understood through him what American citizenship requires, even if they had heard of his courage only through history books.

Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders - to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.


I am part of a team of faculty and students who are working on a Summer Team Impact Grant at George Mason University to examine social isolation among older adults (PI: Megumi Inoue, assistant professor in the Department of Social Work; IRBNet number: 1611168-1). If you have/had your loved one in an institutional setting during the COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to learn about your and your loved one’s experiences. If you are willing to answer questions in an online survey, which will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete, please click the below link. Thank you!


Online Survey Software | Qualtrics Survey Solutions The most powerful, simple and trusted way to gather experience data. Start your journey to experience management and try a free account today.

The Whole World Is Marching — Democracy in Color 06/12/2020

The Whole World Is Marching — Democracy in Color In This Episode: In the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police, an historic nationwide and global movement has emerged in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for the end of anti-black racism and police brutality, and defunding the police. Demonst


As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change.

Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.

First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation – something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.

On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices – and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well. Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people – which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.

So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.

Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities. A big city may need one set of reforms; a rural community may need another. Some agencies will require wholesale rehabilitation; others should make minor improvements. Every law enforcement agency should have clear policies, including an independent body that conducts investigations of alleged misconduct. Tailoring reforms for each community will require local activists and organizations to do their research and educate fellow citizens in their community on what strategies work best.

But as a starting point, I’ve included two links below. One leads to a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House. And if you’re interested in taking concrete action, we’ve also created a dedicated site at the Obama Foundation to aggregate and direct you to useful resources and organizations who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years.

I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting – that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life. But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.

Let’s get to work.

- obama.org/policing-civil-rights-org-toolkit
- obama.org/anguish-and-action

Asian Americans - Asian Americans 05/12/2020

Thank you, PBS, for this series:
https://www.pbs.org/weta/asian-americans/. There are so many lessons to learn from history as we continue to fight against injustice and racism.

Asian Americans - Asian Americans Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever. As America becomes more diverse, and more divided, while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? Told through intimate and personal lives, the....

A Love Letter to Social Workers on the Front Lines of COVID-19 04/14/2020

So well said...a moving tribute to social workers on the front lines.

A Love Letter to Social Workers on the Front Lines of COVID-19 Social workers are often unsung heroes, and that’s often ok with them. They go about their work in the backgrounds of organizations that are meant to do other things: in hospitals that are meant to save lives, in schools that are meant to educate children.

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