WASHINGTON, United States – Zimbabwean Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis has been named director of health for St. Louis, the second biggest city in the state of Missouri in the United States of America.
The infectious diseases specialist will assume the position in October, according to St. Louis mayor Tishaura Jones.
“I’m humbled and honoured to accept this position, which affords me the opportunity to serve the city I love now at the highest level,” Hlatshwayo Davis said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity provided me at such an important time in our nation to step up and to serve as the director of health as we face perhaps the most challenging part of this pandemic.”
Before her latest appointment, Hlatshwayo Davis was serving on the city’s board of health and at the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis. She has chaired a city initiative to reduce HIV rates.
In the past year-and-a-half, Hlatshwayo Davis has become a familiar expert on television and radio on the coronavirus pandemic and its disproportionate effects on poor people and people of colour.
Jones said Hlatshwayo Davis “will play a critical role in leading our city out of the Covid-19 pandemic” but also shares her view that there are other key health issues facing St. Louis as well.
Among them are gun violence and sexually transmitted diseases, Jones said.
The mayor said she wanted to make sure with the appointment that “we’re addressing all of our issues, not just the one that is present now.”
Hlatshwayo Davis said scientific evidence will guide all her decisions. One of her first priorities is increasing the city’s Covid-19 vaccination rates. Just over half of all people 18 and older in St. Louis are fully vaccinated.
“I have seen first-hand what Covid-19 is doing to our loved ones,” she said. “I have counselled my own patients on the risks and benefits of a vaccine. And I understand what we need to do as a society to reach our new normal.”
The 39-year-old, who grew up in Zimbabwe, earned her medical degree from Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and a master’s degree in public health from Case Western Reserve University, also in Cleveland.
She completed fellowships in infectious disease, HIV and sexually transmitted infections at Washington University School of Medicine. She also was a clinical instructor at the school for two years and in the leadership of the school’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity.
Hlatshwayo Davis said her interest in public health was shaped by the death of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and diabetes.
Her husband, Dr. Jesse Davis, is a pediatrician and neonatal hospitalist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The couple has two children.