NIH OBSSR Matilda White Riley Honors Behavioral Scientists

June 9, 2022

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) virtually hosted the 15th NIH Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors on June 3rd to honor distinguished scholars in the behavioral and social  sciences. Matilda White Riley, who passed in 2004, was a pioneer in the fields of sociology and gerontology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This event commemorates Dr. Riley’s commitment to advancing research in our sciences and her leadership at the NIH (read more on her legacy here).

The distinguished lecturer for this year, David R. Williams, Ph.D., M.P.H., is the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and the Chair of the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences at Harvard. He is also a Harvard Chan School of Public Health Professor of African and African American Studies. Dr. William’s presentation was titled “The Virus of Racism: Understanding its Threats, Mobilizing Defenses”. Through examples and data from both the United States and South Africa, Dr. Williams argued that physical segregation and oppression of groups in populations show distinct negative effects on the health of the population. The presentation shared findings in support of the notion that socio-economic status not only affects public health, but is also a direct explanation of public health issues. Dr. Williams stated that the only way to solve public health crises is by examining and correcting the socio-economic factors that created those crises.

Five early-stage investigator (ESI) honorees were also selected to present their behavioral and social sciences research findings:

  • Noli Brazil, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of California, Davis, was honored for his study, “The multidimensional clustering of health and its ecological risk factors.”
  • Keita Christophe, PhD, assistant professor at Wake Forest University, presented on identifying the sensitive periods of discrimination in the life course when discrimination is particularly risky in his presentation, “Shift-&-Persist and discrimination predicting depression across the life course: An accelerated longitudinal design using MIDUS I-III.”
  • Patricia Homan, PhD, assistant professor of Sociology at Florida State University, presented on findings from “Structural intersectionality as a new direction for health disparities research.”
  • John W. Jackson, ScD, assistant professor in the Departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University, presented on “Meaningful causal decompositions in health equity research.”
  • Alina I. Palimaru, PhD, MPP, presented her work on “Mental health, family functioning, and sleep in cultural context among American Indian/Alaska Native Urban youth: A mixed method analysis.”

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

To read past FABBS coverage on the NIH OBSSR Integration of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Report Presented to NIH Council of Councils, click here.