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8110 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, VA 22042

The Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute Research Program combines both basic science with clinical research under the leadership of Dr. Geoffrey Ling, Vice Chair of Neuroscience Research. The program includes independent labs and has more than 20 research projects. The program’s goal is to advance Neuroscience clinical outcomes and treatment options for the Inova community, the nation and the world. The program embraces collaborations with other research institutions and educational programs.

Geoffrey Ling, MD, PhD
Vice-Chair for Research
Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute

Dr. Geoffrey Ling is a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, attending neuro critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, acting Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and CEO of Ling and Associates, a biotechnology consulting firm.

Dr. Ling was the Founding Director of the Biological Technologies Office at DARPA and served as the Assistant Director for Medical Innovation in President Obama’s White House Office of Science, Technology and Policy. He is a retired U.S. Army colonel having served 21 years on active duty; he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and Iraq in 2005 and had four in-theater missions between 2009-2011 for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to assess TBI care in the combat theater. The 10th Combat Support Hospital named him their first “Physician of the Month.” He consulted Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s trauma team following her tragic attack.

Dr. Ling received a BA in Biology and History from Washington University in St. Louis, his medical degree from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from Cornell University. He is board certified in both neurology and neuro critical care. He has published 200+ peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He was a contributing author or editor of the Guidelines for the Field Management of Combat Related Head Trauma, the VA-DoD Clinical Practice Guidelines for Mild TBI and Concussion, and the chapter on TBI and spinal cord injury in Cecil’s Textbook of Medicine.


Robert Lipsky, PhD
Director, Translational Research
Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute
Inova Fairfax Hospital

Dr. Lipsky is director of translational research at the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute. He holds multiple university appointments as a full professor, and is chief of Inova’s translational research laboratory at Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University.

Before arriving at Inova in 2010, he served as chief of the section on molecular genetics for ten years at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. His research centered on the molecular genetics of addiction and co-morbid disorders, such as major depression, and on defining molecular responses to brain injury. During this time he also served as a board member of the Brain Injury Association of Maryland.

Dr. Lipsky received his PhD in genetics and biochemistry from Cornell University. He holds two U.S. patents in DNA sequence detection and has co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Dr. Lipsky has served as a scientific advisor to the U.S. Army and as a reviewer for the NIH. He is on the editorial board of several scientific journals. He pursues translational research to understand the etiology of complex disorders involving the brain through an understanding of genetics and its intersection with the patient’s environment, insights that will lead to new treatment approaches as well as better targeting of existing therapies.


Laith Altaweel, MD
Assistant Director of Clinical Research
Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute

Dr. Laith Altaweel serves as the Assistant Director of Clinical Research for the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute. Dr. Altaweel received a BS in Biology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, IL and his medical degree at Loyola University of Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, IL. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Critical Care and Neurocritical Care. He is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Inova Campus VCU School of Medicine.

Dr. Altaweel completed his residency in internal medicine and neurology at Stony Brook University in New York. He was a NIH critical care research fellow and a Johns Hopkins University neurocritical care research fellow. He has served as the Neurocricital Director at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus and Inova Health System since 2014, and served as the Interim Stroke Director at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus.

Dr. Altaweel’s research focus is serum biomarkers of delayed cerebral injury after SAH, ketamine sedations for SAH patients, IO placement for treatment of cerebral herniation, and balanced fluid hypertonic solutions in brain injured patients. He has presented multiple abstracts, oral presentations and publications.


Tricia Brannan, MHMP, BSN, RN, CCRC
Manager of Research
Inova Neuroscience Research Program

Tricia Brannan is the manager of the Inova Neuoscience and Spine Institute Research Department. Ms. Brannan earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Fairfield University. She received her Master Degree in Health and Medical Policy at George Mason University. She has over 10 years of nursing experience. She joined the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute Research Department in 2015. Her main focus is brain health and wellness.


Kara Foshay, PhD
Research Investigator
Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute, Brain Tumor Lab

Dr. Kara Foshay directs the brain tumor research lab at the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute. She is an alumnus of The College of William and Mary, earned her PhD from Georgetown University, and completed training as an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Foshay holds academic appointments at VCU and GMU, and her scientific interests include cellular plasticity as it relates to both stem cells and cancer. At Inova, her lab focuses on translational research and personalized medicine, as well as development of a therapeutic testing platform for patients with glioblastoma. 


Karlie Smith, BSN, RN
Clinical Research Nurse

Karlie Smith earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from James Madison University; she also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. Smith has over 10 years of nursing experience within the Inova Health System and is a certified medical-surgical registered nurse. Her previous experience includes caring for cardiovascular, thoracic and intermediate care patients. Smith joined the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute Research Department in 2016, assisting with numerous trials in both the clinic and acute care settings.


Ann Aizon, BSN, RN
Clinical Research Nurse

Annie Aizon graduated from Kent State University with her Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2007 and became an registered nurse after earning her Diploma of Nursing from the Trinity School of Nursing in 2012. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2015. Aizon has worked at Inova since 2013 as an intraoperative nurse in the Tower OR as part of the neuro team and then as a clinical nurse in the Neurosciences ICU; she joined the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute Research Department in 2017. Aizon assists with numerous trials in both clinic and acute care settings.


Yun Fang
Senior Database Administrator

Yun Fang is a data professional, educated in computer science and biostatistics from the University of Albany, and a certified SAS-programmer. Fang has 15 years of experience involving clinical data management and analysis from multicenter clinical trials and single clinic studies on population census, inpatient and outpatient for research and quality measures in New York, Cleveland, OH and Fairfax, VA. Fang implements online applications and provides data integration and presentations for investigators in multiple research institutions for critical care, neurology and geriatric services at Inova.


Laura Coonfield, BA
Research Project Associate, Data Coordinator

Laura Coonfield earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University majoring in Philosophy and Microbiology with a concentration in genetics. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Clinical Research and is certified with the Association of Clinical Research Professionals as a certified clinical research coordinator (CCRC). Coonfield joined the Inova Neuroscience Research Department in 2016. Her clinical interests include traumatic brain injury and neurocognitive disorders.


Dana Whitley, MPA, IOM
Regulatory Specialist

As a healthcare policy professional, Whitley has worked for national nonprofit organizations in the D.C. region since 2005. Through her work in advocacy and government affairs, she has organized and trained volunteers across the country to advance public policies supporting patient-centered care, preventive care, and health care access at both the state and federal levels. She earned a political science degree from Kenyon College and a Masters of Public Administration from George Mason University; she also attained certification from the Institute for Organization Management (IOM) as a nonprofit professional.