Former NIH Chief of Rehabilitation Medicine Joins Mason

Posted: October 18, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

George Mason University’s newly reorganized and renamed College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) announced the hire of Naomi Lynn Hurwitz Gerber, the former chief of rehabilitation medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and an internationally-known researcher in the fields of rehabilitation science and chronic illness, particularly rheumatic disease and cancer.

Gerber will join Mason on Jan. 1, 2006, and will develop and lead a new center for chronic illness and disability.

As director of the new center, Gerber will work to develop partnerships between the center and members of the George Mason community, the federal government, health-care payers and providers and the disability community. The center’s goal will be to improve the lives of the disabled through research and investigation, including the study of molecular, physiological, environmental and societal conditions that can lead to the development of chronic disease and disabling conditions.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Gerber is joining our team and eager to begin working together to get the center up and running,” says Shirley Travis, dean of CHHS. “As a leading expert in the field, her knowledge and research methods will be invaluable to our college as we continue developing programs and adding resources that benefit the university, our students and the larger George Mason community.”

Research and development will be a primary focus for Gerber. Overarching goals for the center will focus on gaining new knowledge about the linkages between chronic illness and disability; developing and testing methods for measuring human performance, function and disability; devising new technology and interventions to restore function or prevent its decline in chronic illness; and accessing health care policies that pertain to management of chronic illness.

One planned pilot test will develop a treatment plan that combines disease management with management of disability for cancer patients. The study will look at how early intervention affects factors such as reduction of abdominal fat, improved return to work status and the reduction of physiological and psychological stress.

Specific objectives will focus on looking at connections between chronic disease management and disability management; developing research initiatives to study how physical, emotional and behavioral impairments produce disability; and how disability influences impairment. Another area of exploration will include trying to determine whether a new system of classification will enable a more accurate assessment of patient status than current models.

Gerber’s hire follows CHHS’ recent reorganization that named rehabilitation science as one of the college’s primary areas of focus. The plan is to offer an MS degree by fall 2008 and a PhD degree by 2010.

Gerber previously served as chief of rehabilitation medicine at the NIH Clinical Center. She is board certified in internal medicine, rheumatology and physical medicine and rehabilitation. Gerber’s clinical expertise includes rehabilitation of patients with rheumatic diseases and cancer, management of children with musculoskeletal syndromes and foot and ankle management.

The author or coauthor of more than 100 publications, Gerber received her BA from Smith College and her MD from Tufts University Medical School. She trained in internal medicine at the New England Medical Center, Boston; in rheumatology in the arthritis branch, NIAMS, NIH; and in physical medicine and rehabilitation at George Washington University. Gerber is frequently sought after as a speaker on rehabilitation science to national and international audiences.

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