NIH Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors

Matilda White Riley

Register: 12th NIH Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors
Thursday, June 6, 2019 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm ET
NIH Campus, Wilson Hall (Bldg. 1)
Free registration is required. Register at:
This meeting will not be live webcast.


Matilda White Riley, Ph.D. (1911-2004) was a celebrated scientist and member of the National Academy of Sciences whose transformative work and leadership in the behavioral and social sciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is honored annually by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).

Each year, NIH honors the research trajectory and continuing influence of Dr. Matilda White Riley in the behavioral and social sciences across and beyond the NIH. Initiated as an annual distinguished scholar lecture, OBSSR expanded the event in 2016 to recognize emerging scientists with a competition for peer-reviewed articles by Early Stage Investigators (ESIs).

For more information about past NIH Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors, click here.

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12th Matilda White Riley Honors Distinguished Lecturer

Headshot photo of Dr. Mark VanLandingham, P.h.d

Mark J. VanLandingham, Ph.D.
Thomas C. Keller Professor
Director, Center for Studies of Displaced Populations
Tulane University

Presentation Title and Description:
Culture and Resilience: Insights from the Vietnamese American community in post-Katrina New Orleans

After my home city of New Orleans flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in late August of 2005, I became very interested in differentials in post-disaster recovery and how resilience affects trajectories of recovery. I had had a long-standing interest in the Vietnamese immigrant enclave within the city and soon became puzzled when it became apparent that this community was faring much better than other communities that had experienced similar levels of damage and that seemed to have had similar levels of pre-Katrina resources to draw upon. According to conventional perspectives on resilience and disaster recovery, such resources should have provided similar levels of community resilience for the Vietnamese with respect to their neighboring communities, which were not doing so well. In fact, given their geographical, linguistic, and political isolation from the rest of the city, I – and other observers - had been concerned that the Vietnamese community might not recover at all.

But recover it did. In retrospect, it now seems clear that the Vietnamese community in New Orleans enjoyed a set of attributes that distinguished it from its neighboring communities, and that these attributes facilitated their post-Katrina recovery. I think that many of these attributes have little to do with the dimensions included in conventional perspectives on community resilience, and instead are best described as cultural.

In my talk, I’ll discuss the role I see for culture in explanations of why some groups fare better post-disaster than other groups; why culture has been left out of most explanations of resilience in general and disaster recovery in particular; and why including culture in such explanations matters, for both academic and policy reasons.

Mark J. VanLandingham, PhD, is the Thomas C. Keller Professor at Tulane University. His research focuses on a wide array of topics related to demography, sociology, and public health. He has led recent major projects focusing on the antecedents and consequences of largescale rural-to-urban migration within Southeast Asia; and acculturation, health, and well-being among Vietnamese immigrants in the United States. One major project underway investigates Health and Demographic Disparities in Long-term Recovery from Hurricane Katrina (HDDR-HK), funded by a Program Award (P01) from NIH. He co-leads this team of researchers from Tulane, Harvard, NYU, Brown, and Michigan with Mary Waters and David Abramson. This project is based at Tulane’s new Center for Studies of Displaced Populations (CSDP), which he directs. An enduring interest is community resilience within immigrant communities, and he has a recent book on this topic published by the Russell Sage Foundation: Weathering Katrina (2017). Regarding teaching, he co-leads (with Katherine Andrinopoulos) the International Health and Development (IHD) Section and Program within the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences in Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. For teaching and student mentoring, Dr. VanLandingham has recently received the school’s Teaching Excellence Award (2013) and the school’s award for Outstanding Long term Commitment to Student Needs (2018).

Early Stage Investigator Paper Competition – Submission Period Now Closed

The submission period is now closed for the Early Stage Investigators (ESI, within 10 years of their terminal degree) paper competition.

If you have any questions, please contact