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Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute Research Program - Team

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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 the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute's Research Program. The research 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, Research, Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute

Dr. Geoffrey Ling is the Interim Vice-Chair for the Research Program in the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute and is CEO of Ling and Associates, a biotechnology consulting firm. He is a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and an attending neuro critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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 and 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 MD from Georgetown University, and a PhD 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

Dr. Lipsky is Director of Translational Research for 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 the Krasnow Institute at George Mason University.

Previously, 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 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications. Dr. Lipsky has served as a scientific advisor to the U.S. Army and as a reviewer for the National Institutes of Health. 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 MD 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 Neurocritical 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 subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), and improving patient outcomes following SAH and brain injury, including ketamine sedations for SAH patients, intraosseous needle placement for treatment of cerebral herniation, and the use of balanced fluid hypertonic solutions in brain injured patients. He has presented multiple abstracts, oral presentations and publications.


Karlie Smith, BSN, RN
Senior Clinical Research Nurse and Interim Research Manager

Karlie Smith earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from James Madison University; she also holds a BA in art history. Smith has more than 12 years of nursing experience within the Inova Health System and is a certified clinical research 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.


Yun Fang
Senior Database Administrator

Yun Fang is a data professional with an MS 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 and a Master's degree in clinical research with Drexel University. She 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 epilepsy and neurocognitive disorders.


Stefannie Belardo, BSN, RN
Clinical Research Nurse

Stefannie Belardo earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from George Mason University; she also holds a BS in biology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She started her career at the Inova Translational Medicine Institute where she learned and practiced laboratory research. With Inova’s help, she went back to school and accomplished her nursing degree. She spent a year and a half on Inova Alexandria Hospital's Intermediary Care Unit before combining her love for research and people by joining the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute Research where she assists with various trials.