The Southwestern Psychological Association will hold its annual convention in Baton Rouge, April 8 through 10, at the Crown Plaza Hotel. Dr. Katie Cherry, the Emogene Pliner Distinguished Professor of Aging Studies at Louisiana State University, and the Director of Research and Community Outreach, LSU Life Course and Aging Center, is this year’s Psi Chi Distinguished Speaker at the event.
Dr. Cherry will present, “Severe Weather Events and Psychosocial Well-Being: Variables that Matter after a Disaster.”
Dr. Cherry will discuss the impact of hurricanes and flooding on various health indicators across the adult lifespan. She will present findings from her research program on disaster stressors in connection with the 2016 flooding in south Louisiana, and outline suggestions for managing post-disaster stress and strategies for long-term recovery after severe weather events.
Dr. Cherry, expert in the stress impact of natural disasters, has been at the center of research about how people come through disasters. In her most recent book, The Other Side of Suffering: Finding a Path to Peace after Tragedy, published by Oxford University Press, she builds on and extends her previous work with those who have been caught in natural disasters.
Dr. Cherry crafted The Other Side of Suffering to be helpful for the general public by sharing her academic and experiential knowledge gained from her multiple projects with Katrina and Rita survivors, and how they built back their lives, spirit, and resilience.
“Many perished after Katrina. Those who survived have a breadth of life experience that is wider and possibly deeper than those who have yet to live through a disaster,” she writes. In The Other Side of Suffering, Dr. Cherry explains the process of grieving, how recovering routines may be of central importance to healing after disasters, and how traditions solidify a sense of “rightness with the world.” The Other Side is an insider’s view of life and suffering, and the elements of the human journey back.
Dr. Cherry and her colleagues were in the third year of a multiyear project, funded by the National Institute on Aging, to study the determinants of longevity and healthy aging, when the 2005 Atlantic hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit Louisiana and shattered lives.
“In the years after the Katrina disaster, ” she writes, “I wondered what had happened to the displaced coastal residents … “. She knew that more than a million US Gulf Coast residents were displaced. “Knowing how disaster survivors were faring in the years after the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was important to me.” The Other Side of Suffering helps answer that question.
Dr. Cherry has also presented her work in, Traumatic Stress and Long-Term Recovery: Coping with Disasters and Other Negative Life Events, and in her 2009 book, Lifespan Perspectives on Natural Disasters: Coping with Katrina, Rita and other Storms.
She has studied coastal residents with severe property damage from the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and those with exposure to the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Dr. Cherry and scholars from around the world have looked at the stresses from natural and technological disasters, acts of terrorism, wars, and interpersonal violence, and how stress and prolonged suffering threatens health and well-being. Dr. Cherry focuses on the long-term effects of disaster exposure, the consequences for peoples’ daily lives, and the means for recovery and healing.
According to organizers at the Southwestern Psychological Association, “Severe weather events are happening with increasing frequency today. Hurricanes, floods, and other tragedies that impact peoples’ lives are disruptive and stressful events that may threaten health and well-being. Consequently, there is a great need for knowledge to understand the immediate and long-term consequences of natural disasters and tragic events for people of all ages.”
At LSU, Dr. Cherry teaches undergraduate courses on adult development and aging, lifespan human development, and a graduate seminar in developmental psychology. She is also an adjunct professor at Tulane University School of Medicine where she teaches advanced research methods and design to PhD students affiliated with the Tulane Center for Aging.
Dr. Cherry is actively involved in research with middle-aged and older adults to understand challenges to healthy aging after disaster. She has over 185 publications including peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters, three edited volumes, and one solo authored book. Her work has been funded by the National Institute on Aging, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and most recently by the National Science Foundation.
Other keynote speakers at the Southwestern Psychological Association convention include Dr. Susan Clayton, who will present,” Psychology and climate change: Understanding and responding.” Dr. Clayton has authored or edited five books, including the Oxford Handbook of Environmental and Conservation Psychology.
Dr. Tanecia Blue will deliver the Inaugural Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Keynote Address – “Psychology’s role in the race construct.” Dr. Blue is the current Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Society for Health Psychology and her primary initiative is educating health psychologists about the role of psychology in improving health equity.
Dr. Susan Raiford will deliver the Woodcock Institute Keynote Address, “Pandemic Impact on Performance-Based Psychological Assessment of Children: What We’ve Learned and How We Can Respond.” Dr. Raiford is a senior research director at The Psychological Corporation/Pearson. She has been a primary developer of the Wechsler Intelligence scales.