Andrew Dougal OBE

Andrew Dougal OBE

Last week we received that sad news that our friend Andrew Dougal had passed away. Andrew was the Chair of the PHA until just last year, having served for eight years in the role. Not only did be bring his vast experience and knowledge of a broad range of health issues, but he was also a source of encouragement and support for the agency and its staff.

After attending St Malachy’s College in north Belfast, and then Queen’s University, Andrew started a career as a teacher at St Louise’s College in west Belfast. He then went onto become Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke in 1983, where he had a distinguished career leading the organisation for many years, acting as a champion for better health and research, and having a positive impact on the lives of many people and their families. For his achievements in health, Andrew was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1996. He was also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

It was after his retirement from NICHS that the PHA was able to directly benefit from his experience and passion for public health when he was appointed Chair in 2015.

Andrew brought energy and vision to the role, with a particular interest in areas such as reducing health inequalities, improving childhood health, tackling antimicrobial resistance, public health communications, Research & Development and its importance, disability rights, tackling poverty and its impact, and recruitment of staff from a diverse range of backgrounds to deliver the Public Health Agency’s work.

He brought the benefit of his experience in leadership to advocate for board effectiveness and keeping the work of the agency focused. He was very keen on the PHA having a strategy that should show clear outcomes and being able to measure how it is making a difference, something which is still core to how we operate.

But beyond the professionalism and expertise he brought to the role of Chair, Andrew also had a very positive personal impact on those who had the benefit of knowing him. He was a larger-than-life character and could only be described as a gentleman. Many of us found ourselves having long conversations with him, hearing about his fascinating and storied life, but also discovering that he had a keen interest in our lives, offering support and encouragement. His warmth shone through.

Andrew was also a pillar of his local community, and was well known on the Ormeau Road, where his passing has also been felt with a keen sense of loss as his friends and neighbours come to terms with the fact that they will no longer bump into him for a chat or see him heading to watch the rugby.

Andrew’s absence was felt when he left the role of Chair of the PHA, and this will be even more profound now that he has passed. He was more than just a colleague and a leader – he was a friend.

The thoughts of everyone in the PHA are with Andrew’s wife Fiona and his son Jack.