Home > Justine Horgan – an appreciation.

Scally, Susan and Comiskey, Catherine and Trimble, Mary Jane and Rackard, Marion and Barry, Joseph (2014) Justine Horgan – an appreciation. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 48, Winter 2013, pp. 24-25.

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Dr Justine Horgan, senior researcher in the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA), died in August. Justine was a Health Research Board (HRB) staff member seconded to the Department of Health and worked as prevalence expert at the Irish National Focal Point to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Justine’s colleagues and friends in the HRB were deeply saddened by her untimely death. Justine was a highly dedicated scientist with a commitment to ensuring that evidence of the highest quality was available to those making policy in the drugs field. We have lost an excellent colleague and a good friend and we will remember her time working with us with both fondness and regret. 

In the paragraphs below, some of those who came to know Justine during her time in the Department of Health recall the projects on which they worked together.
Justine had a long and fruitful association with the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) before she was appointed as senior researcher in August 2010. She first started working with the NACD in the spring of 2006. She subsequently was responsible for designing a comparative study of substance use among early school-leavers and students attending school. The study had two key aims: first to explore the factors associated with substance use among those who left school early, and second to identify the risk and protective factors that influence young people's decisions regarding substance use.
The study was planned by the NACD on the basis of an initial literature review undertaken by Justine, who was also involved in the implementation of the study and in the process of data collection. The study was published and formally launched in the Gresham Hotel in October 2010, shortly after Justine took up post as senior researcher at the NACD.
The study involved a significant level of collaboration from inception through to publication, involving the research advisory group, Justine who conceptualised the study, her husband Peter Muhlau, the participants in the survey and the authors of the report. The process, which culminated in the largest study of substance use among young people ever undertaken in Ireland, reflects in many ways Justine's collaborative and co-operative style of working. We will remember the support and guidance she offered to the research advisory groups involved in this and other studies, the mentoring of her work colleagues, her generosity to those who sought her professional assistance and above all her dedication to carrying out high-quality research in the interests of evidence-based policy and practice in the field of substance misuse.
Susan Scally, Drug Policy Unit, Department of Health
Dr Justine Horgan first joined the NACD in 2006 having returned to Ireland from the Netherlands where she had worked in the University of Groningen. Her colleagues in the NACD welcomed the experience, enthusiasm and expertise that Justine brought to her role as a researcher and she made an immediate mark. Her first piece of work was An overview of cocaine use in Ireland II (NACD 2007). In addition to working on other ongoing projects she conceptualised and brought to fruition a novel and complex piece of work on early school leaving and the risk and protection factors, and carried out the pilot study.
In 2007 she accepted a position within the Department of Justice, working as a researcher with COSC, but rejoined the NACD in 2010. She led on the 2010/2011 general population survey while simultaneously managing contracts for new work. Further important research during this time was her work on children living with parents who use drugs. This work was published in her report, Parental substance misuse: addressing its impact on children: a review of the literature (NACD 2001). A subsequent national conference called ‘A Family Affair’ brought together professionals from a wide range of disciplines, including children’s services, health, education, welfare and policy makers. The report and the conference generated enormous interest and contributed to the greater awareness of an area on which little research had been done.
Although I was familiar with Justine’s work I only had the opportunity to meet her in person when I was appointed chairperson of the NACDA in January 2013. I would like to think we got on immediately. We shared a common passion for the work and for me it was like finding a new research friend who one sensed was going to be a ‘best’ friend and with whom one could share thoughts and excitement about shared research. We met and chatted and excitedly planned how we were going to get this or that piece of work done. The future of research was full of promise.  To lose that unique best friend in research before we had time to really get to know one another and share the joy of the work has been a real loss. Personally, I feel a real sense of loss and regret, not so much for what we had shared but for what we might have shared.
Professor Catherine Comiskey, chair, NACDA
Justine was an instantly likeable person, with a great sense of humour and fun, and was an excellent mimic. She could talk about anything in a most engaging and interesting way, from the serious important life issues to the mundane. She was a generous and supportive work colleague and always had the time to explain and discuss her work and offer help and advice to everyone who asked for it. She was a lovely, graceful and elegant person who made a deep impression on everyone she met.
Mary Jane Trimble, NACDA
I was involved with Justine in relation to her research on parental substance abuse and its impact on children. As a member of the research advisory group, I got to know Justine as a senior researcher who had completed a comprehensive review and analysis of the international literature on the topic of the impact of parental substance misuse on children. Justine's research provided a sharp focus on the multiple losses and trauma experienced by these children and the actions required to lessen those harms.
The Croke Park conference was a fitting platform to communicate the findings from Justine's research to those to whom it was most directed – health and social care professionals, particularly those in child and family and addiction services. The report advocates common principles and standards to support work with parental substance misusers to underpin services working to safeguard the development of their children. I am pleased to say that Justine's work is bearing fruit in the form of a HSE national project steering group recently established for the development of a Hidden Harm policy as recommended in the Steering group report on a national substance misuse strategy (2012). The work of this group will be aimed at practice change, highlighting the importance of earlier interventions for children.
On a personal level, I am deeply saddened at the loss of Justine as her intellect, compassion, openness and humility have left an indelible imprint on the lives of those affected by addiction and those who work with them through the legacy of her fine research work.
Marion Rackard, HSE
My colleague Jo-Hanna Ivers and I carried out an evaluation of the roll-out of the pilot of the National Rehabilitation Framework between 2011 and 2013. It was not all plain sailing and Justine , through her membership of the National Drug Rehabilitation Implementation Committee (NDRIC), where she represented the NACDA, played a very constructive role in guiding the evaluation. She possessed a terrific combination of technical excellence with a gracious facilitatory disposition. She had a way of imparting advice in a non-condescending manner and it was impossible not to take her recommendations on board. We are a small drug research community in Ireland and Justine’s tragic death has already had a huge impact on us, her colleagues. We can only imagine the greater sense of loss for Peter, her husband. I feel the better for having known her and worked with her.
Professor Joe Barry, TCD
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Issue Title
Issue 48, Winter 2013
January 2014
Page Range
pp. 24-25
Health Research Board
Issue 48, Winter 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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