Chair, 2018/19 and 2019/20

Dr Paul Davis


Dr Davis practised as a General Practitioner in Johannesburg from 1972 up to 1989. During this period his interests were being a good GP, an activist in the prevention and treatment of torture in South Africa and other political activities and emergency medical services.

He founded the Medical Rescue International (MRI) which was the first private air ambulance and paramedic-based emergency medical service in South Africa. Its two objectives were:

  • To improve access for all people in emergencies and critical illness to high levels of care in emergencies across the country and in sub- Saharan Africa; and
  • To involve the private sector so as to help support public emergency services.

He has served on the Board of the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) 1997 to 2000, with a key focus on the broadcast transformation processes.

He was a member and later president of the non-racial Association of Medical Student Associations of South Africa (AMSSA) which promoted contact and common interests and activities between medical students of all the medical schools in South Africa. It was forced to close when the government banned interracial social contact and activities. AMSSA did not take the ban lying down as it vigorously protested the banning and harassment of many SA medical students and doctors opposed to apartheid and the trampling of human rights in the country.

He served as chairman of the African Night School of the SRC which because of a quirk in the group areas act all races were allowed on campus. Wits students could legally teach black pupils on the university premises in the evenings. Classes and subjects from standard 3 to matric were catered for at no charge. He also served as chairman of WITSCO a Wits University student-run endeavour offering a range of social and community services (legal medical social commercial) to deprived communities around Johannesburg.

He was a founder member of the Independent Doctors Panel of the Detainees Parents Support committee which sought ways to prevent the torture of detainees and prisoners and assist those doctors (District surgeons) who could treat them in prison or in custody. A protocol (supported by Wits medical school and the medical associations) for the assessment and treatment of all prisoners also resulted from this work.

During the height of apartheid, Dr Davis featured in foreign media and published his findings widely during this period in an effort to try and stop what was going on. The same group of doctors also set up “on-site” emergency medical services to assist victims injured in many of the “unrest” protests around the country. He spent 2 years in the Supreme Court of South Africa defending an action brought by the government to try to force him to give them his patient records of those torture victims he had seen and treated.


  • Chairman of the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness (Public Benefit Organisation) and the “Right to Sight” campaign to eradicate cataract and other avoidable blindness in South Africa.
  • President of the Health Graduates Association of Wits Medical School and a member of the University’s convocation executive.
  • Non-Executive Director, Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Johannesburg


Permanent link to this article: