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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Matthew O. Howard as a Mentor and His Influence on the Science of Mindfulness as a Treatment for Addiction


It is difficult to estimate the impact of a scholar. Conventional metrics such as citation counts, h-indexes, publications in top-tier journals, and federal grants all provide some objective indication of scholarly impact, but these indices fail to capture the holistic and historical context of a scholar’s influence on the development and emergence of entire fields of inquiry. To obtain a more comprehensive sense of scholarly impact, a reviewer with close knowledge of both the scholar and the field is required. As his student and colleague, I believe that Matthew Owen Howard, PhD, exerted a singular influence on social work research, and his scholarly efforts helped give rise to a new and critically important field of scientific investigation: the study of mindfulness as a treatment for addiction.

Matthew was, simply put, a giant of social work research. With more than 8,866 citations and an h-index of 55 (as of January 9, 2019), and having served several terms as editor-in-chief of peer-reviewed journals and on more than 50 editorial boards and at least 12 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study sections, Matthew’s scholarly efforts had a significant impact on broad domains of science, including the study of addiction, mental health, and evidence-based practice. His early research grew out of his clinical experience treating alcoholism with chemical aversion therapy. Later, Matthew studied the epidemiology of psychiatric and substance use disorders, and he subsequently became one of the world’s leading experts on inhalant abuse (Howard, Bowen, & Garland, 2015), work for which the National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded him both R03 (No. R03DA15929) and R01 (No. R01DA021405) grants as principal investigator. During this time, Matthew had been a faculty member at some of the most prestigious universities in the country, including the University of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Michigan, and finally, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he rooted himself for the latter part of his career. It was there that I met Matthew in 2007 when I was a doctoral student.


Eric L. Garland, "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Matthew O. Howard as a Mentor and His Influence on the Science of Mindfulness as a Treatment for Addiction," Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research 10, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 7-12.

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Last Updated: 4/14/21