College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Carla L Fisher

Carla L Fisher

Carla L Fisher

Health Communication Minor Director

Health and aging communication across the life span, family illness and coping, inter-generational family communication, cancer communication, clinician-patient communication, human development and aging

Dr. Carla L. Fisher joined George Mason University in 2011 as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication. Prior to joining Mason she was an assistant professor with Arizona State University where she also served as Coordinator of Research in the Family Communication Consortium.

Dr. Fisher received her Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University with a focus on family, health and aging communication. She was a National Institute on Aging (NIA) Pre-doctoral Fellow completing interdisciplinary training in human development/aging that included a minor and graduate certificate in gerontology as well as international studies at the Institute of Gerontology, University of Jönköping, Sweden. Recently she was selected for post-doctoral training in health behavior theory in the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) fifth Advanced Training Institute.

Her research focuses on how intergenerational family communication is connected to health. Using a life-span, developmental framework, she examines how families cope with aging and health transitions, the therapeutic implications of their interaction, and how communication is tied to long-term health outcomes. She has explored this in the context of breast cancer, genetic testing, medical decision-making, later-life caregiving, geriatric healthcare, mental health, and disordered eating patterns. Dr. Fisher’s dissertation research focused on mother-daughter communication after a breast cancer diagnosis in young, middle, and later adulthood. She has since created a larger research program on mother-daughter breast cancer coping and prevention. She recently published a book on enriching mother-daughter communication across the breast cancer journey: Coping together, side by side. She has been invited to speak internationally with medical communities about this research. Her research in mother-daughter communication and breast cancer can be found on her web site.

Dr. Fisher’s research has been funded at the university, private, and federal levels. She has received several top paper awards and published in peer-reviewed books and journals such as the Journal of Genetic Counseling and Health Communication.  She collaborates with various medical institutions, including Mayo Clinic and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She recently served as chair of the National Communication Association’s Communication and Aging Division and on the editorial board of The Journal of Family Communication.

Current Research

Dr. Fisher has two ongoing programs of research. First, she is involved in studies that explore mother-daughter communication in relation to breast cancer coping and prevention. She is lead investigator in a funded collaborative study with Mayo Clinic, with a special focus on young-adult daughters of diagnosed women. She also collaborates with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on psychosocial research aimed at understanding the needs of high-risk mothers and daughters, particularly during genetic counseling. Second, she is collaborating with scholars at Massey University, New Zealand and the University of Arizona to understand how adult children and aging parents can initiate healthy conversations about caregiving needs and planning, before the need is imminent.

Selected Publications

Fisher, C. L., & Nussbaum, J. F. (2015).  Maximizing wellness in successful aging and cancer coping: The importance of family communication from a socioemotional selectivity theoretical perspective. Journal of Family Communication, 15, 3-19.

Fisher, C. L. (2014). Coping together, side by side: Enriching mother-daughter communication across the breast cancer journey. New York: Hampton Press.

Fisher, C. L., Maloney, E., Glogowski, E., Hurley, K., Edgerson, S., Lichtenthal, W. G., Kissane, D., & Bylund, C. (2014). Talking about familial breast cancer risk: Topics and strategies to enhance mother-daughter interactions. Qualitative Health Research, 24, 517-535.

Fowler, C., Fisher, C. L., & Pitts, M. (2014). Older adults' evaluations of middle-aged children's attempts to initiate discussion of care needs. Health Communication, 29, 717-727.

Pitts, M ., Fowler, C., Fisher, C. L., & Smith, S. A. (2014). Politeness strategies in imagined conversation openers about eldercare. Journal of Language & Social Psychology, 33, 27-46.

Fisher, C. L., (2014). Developmental communication. In Moy, P. (Ed.). Bibliographies in communication. New York: Oxford.

Fisher, C. L., & Canzona, M. (2014). Health interactions in older adulthood. In J. F. Nussbaum (Ed.), Handbook of life span communication. New York: Peter Lang.

Fisher, C. L. (2014). Health transition-Family communication. In T. L. Thompson (Ed.), Encyclopedia of health communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fowler, C., & Fisher, C. L. (2014). Communication in intergenerational family relationships. In L. Turner & R. West (Eds.), Handbook of family communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fisher, C. L. (2013). Narrative analysis. In J. F. Nussbaum (Ed.), Readings in communication research methods: From theory to practice. Cognella Academic Press.

Miller-Day, M., Fisher, C. L., & Stube, J. (2013). Mother-daughter and son communication. In M. T. Morman & K. Floyd (Eds.), Widening the family circle: New research in family communication, second edition (pp. 1-17). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fisher, C. L., Miller-Day, M., & Nussbaum, J. F. (2013). Healthy doses of positivity: Mothers’ and daughters’ use of positive communication when coping with breast cancer. In M. Pitts & T. J. Socha (Eds.), Studies in positive communication (pp. 98-113). New York: Peter Lang.

Fisher, C. L., Goldsmith, D., Harrison, K., Hoffner, C. A., Segrin, C., Wright, K., & Miller, K. (2012). Communication and mental health: A conversation from the CM café. Communication Monographs, 79, 539-550.

Bylund, C., Fisher, C. L., Brashers, D., Edgerson, S., Glogowski, E. A., Boyar, S. R., Kemel, Y., Siegel, B., Spencer, S., & Kissane, D. (2012). Sources of uncertainty about daughters’ breast cancer risk that emerge during genetic counseling consultations.  Journal of Genetic Counseling, 12, 292-304.

Nussbaum, J. F., Miller-Day, M., & Fisher, C. L. (2012). “Holding each other all night long”: Communicating intimacy in older adulthood. In T. J. Socha & M. Pitts (Eds.), The positive side of interpersonal communication (pp. 91-108). New York:Peter Lang.

Fisher, C. L., & Nussbaum, J. F. (2012). “Linked lives”: Mother-adult daughter communication after a breast cancer diagnosis. In F. C. Dickson & L. M. Webb (Eds.), Communication for families in crisis: Theories, research, strategies (pp. 179-204). New York: Peter Lang.

Volkman, J. E., & Fisher, C. L. (2011). More than milk: Young-adult women’s osteoporosis disease awareness and prevention. Human Communication, 14, 285–299.

Nussbaum, J. F., & Fisher, C. L. (2011). Successful aging and communication wellness: Understanding aging as a process of transition and continuity. In Y. Matsumoto (Ed.), Faces of aging: The lived experiences of the elderly in Japan, (pp. 263-272). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Fisher, C. L. (2011). “Her pain was my pain”: Mothers and daughters communicatively sharing the breast cancer journey. In M. Miller-Day (Ed.), Going through this together: Family communication, connection, and health transitions (pp. 57-76). New York: Peter Lang.

Fisher, C. L. (2010). Coping with breast cancer across adulthood: Emotional support communication in the mother-daughter bond. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 38, 386 – 411.

Fowler, C., & Fisher, C. L. (2009). Attitudes toward decision-making and aging, and preparation for future care needs. Health Communication, 24, 691-630.

Nussbaum, J. F., & Fisher, C. L. (2009). Communication model for the competent delivery of geriatric medicine. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 28, 190-208.

Nussbaum, J. F., Miller-Day, M., & Fisher, C. L. (2009). Communication and intimacy in older adulthood. Madrid: Aresta.

Nussbaum, J.F., Miller-Day, M. & Fisher, C. (2009). Les relacions intimes en la madursa. Girona, Spain: Editorial Aresta. * Published in Spanish, English, and Catalanfor distribution in Europe, Latin America, and North America.

Miller-Day, M., & Fisher, C. L. (2008). Parent-emerging adult child communication and disordered eating patterns. International Journal of Psychology Research, 3, 223-248.

Nussbaum, J. F., Baringer, D., Fisher, C. L., & Kundrat, A. (2008). Connecting health, communication, and aging:Cancer communication and older adults. In L. Sparks, H. D. O’Hair, & G. L. Kreps (Eds.), Cancer, communication, and aging (pp. 67-76). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.

Miller-Day, M., & Fisher, C. L. (2008). Communication and disordered eating patterns. In J. N. Fuchs (Ed.), Eating disorders in adult women. Nova Science Publishers.

Nussbaum, J. F., & Fisher, C. L. (2008). Developmental communication. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of communication. Boston: Blackwell.

Fisher, C. L. (2008). A book review of “Qualitative methods for family studies and human development,” by K. Daly. Journal of Family Communication, 8, 92-95.

Fisher, C., & Miller-Day, M. (2006). Communication over the life span: The mother-adult daughter relationship. In K. Floyd & M. T. Morman (Eds.), Widening the family circle: New research in family communication (pp. 3-19). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Courses Taught

Assistant Professor and Program Director: Undergraduate Health Communication Minor

Undergrad Courses               

Health Communication
Family Communication & Health
Mother-Daughter Communication     *cross-listed with PSYC & WGST
Interpersonal Communication Theory & Research

Graduate Courses:                 

Health Communication & Advocacy
Family Communication & Health across the Life Span 

Provider-Patient Communication           
Interpersonal/Family Communication Theory

Qualitative Research Methods         *cross-listed with PSYC

Health Communication & Advocacy
Family Communication & Health across the Life Span 

Provider-Patient Communication           
Interpersonal/Family Communication Theory

In the Media

Northern Virginia Magazine October 2013 Issue: For Mothers and Daughters Facing Breast Cancer, Communication is Key

Dissertations Supervised

Mollie Rose Canzona, Understanding Sexual Health in Breast Cancer Survivorship: Capturing Patient, Partner, and Provider Narratives to Enhance Biopsychosocial Care (2015)