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Prof. David Sanders – An exemplary life in Public Health Remembered

​​​The Health Systems Trust is deeply saddened by the passing of Prof. David Sanders, Emeritus Professor of the School of Public Health of the University of the Western Cape and Trustee and 2nd Deputy Chairperson of the Health Systems Trust Board.

David served as a Trustee of HST for the past two years, but has been a friend of the organisation from the time of its inception, sharing and having helped craft its current vision of "Improved health equity in a healthier Africa".

In the field of public health, despite his slight frame, David was a colossus, deeply passionate about improving the health and well-being of the people of the African continent, particularly those from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds in society. For over 30 years he has inspired and lit the flame of commitment to public health for generations of health workers irrespective of where they were in their in public health journey.

David's contribution to health service development in our country, and the region would be almost impossible to measure. From the children whose lives he changed as a paediatrician, his contribution to policy development through research and the inspiration of many public health leaders of our time as an academic, role model and mentor. In his time on the HST Board he wielded his influence as a patient, quiet but determined firebrand, which may sound like a contradiction in terms, but speaks to the manner in which only David could patiently and calmly persuade you to his viewpoint through clarity of thought, evidence for his argument and dogged determination to ensure that the Board's decisions were very carefully thought through. He will be very much missed. His two years on the Board have left an indelible memory on all those he touched, and his role in helping craft HST's current vision, and contribution to shaping our strategy for the next few years provides an opportunity for us to remember him through our work and its outcomes.

His accolades are innumerable; and testament to these is his illustrious public health career, his role in public health education in prestigious institutions as varied as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he has served as Visiting Lecturer and Honorary Professor, and Honorary Professor at the Charité–Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, the University of Bergen in Norway, The Faculty of Health Sciences and the School of Medicine of the University of Cape Town and Flinders University of South Australia. It was therefore fitting that in 2014 he was awarded the Public Health Innovation and Lifetime Achievement Award by the Public Health Association of South Africa.

We were greatly honoured when he agreed to serve on HST's Board in 2017, especially knowing that he was as busy in retirement with all his global public health commitments as he was at the height of his career. We are therefore humbled that we were able share him with many others, and benefit from his enormous wisdom and experience. At a time when he could have made many choices as to how to spend his time, which he has always given generously to others, we are eternally grateful and humbled that he saw fit to work with HST when invited to join the Board; in his words "an organisation whose work I have admired and respected over the years". Kind words from someone so accomplished and exemplary a public health and health policy activist, and advocate, who so keenly felt the importance of improved public health as an ingredient of equitable social and economic development. His sudden passing was a truly sad day for the public health fraternity the world over. He will be sadly missed by his colleagues on the Board of HST and indeed the entire HST family. Our deepest condolences to his wife Prof Sue Fawcus, his family and friends.

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Dr Flavia Senkubuge                                                                                    

Chairperson Health Systems Trust​ Board of Trustees                                 

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Dr Themba Moeti

CEO Health Systems Trust