Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Public health, political stakeholders mourn Professor Winston Davidson

Published:Monday | November 20, 2023 | 12:10 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
Winston Davidson
Winston Davidson

Political figures and stakeholders in the health sector were yesterday thrown into mourning as news emerged that longtime publich health advocate Professor Winston Davidson had died after a brief illness.

Davidson died yesterday morning while undergoing treatment at the University Hospital of the West Indies. He was a close adviser to former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and served as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Health in the late 1970s.

He was also an architect of the popular 2011 JEEP document, the source for the 2011 Manifesto of the People’s National Party (PNP).

Yesterday, Paul Burke, who, along with his wife, Angela Brown Burke, visited the late professor a week before his passing, was among the Comrades leading tributes reflecting on the contributions he made to nation building.

“According to his lifelong friend Dr Winston Dawes, who I just called to verify the dates, they both took the Common Entrance in 1957 and were among recipients of those first 2,000 scholarships,” Burke stated.

He noted that Davidson grew up in Franklin Town, east Kingston, and always spoke glowingly of receiving his opportunity for secondary education through the policies of Norman Manley’s PNP Government.

“They also both entered the UWI Medical School in 1966. ‘Winty’ graduating from Kingston College (KC) and Winston Dawes from JC, where I first met him as a young boarder,” Burke noted.

“[I] confirmed with Dennis Smith that Winty played left back on that famous 1965 winning KC Manning Cup team and also the All Manning team that same year. He would later become president of the KC Old Boys’ Association,” he said.

Following this chapter of Davidson’s life, it was then that Burke met him in the early 1970s, post the February 1972 general elections, through the PNP Youth Organization (PNPYO).

“When I was eventually re invited to the PNPYO in April 1975, Winty was chairman of the PNPYO Western Belt. It is then and there and later as chairman of the Eastern Belt PNPYO that we developed a personal friendship. He worked very closely with Tony ‘Trench Town Rock’ Spaulding, and he was also the councillor for the Cross Roads division at the time,” Burke stated.

Based on Davidson’s robust involvement with the PNP, he was appointed a senator and parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Health in early 1977 after the PNP won the December 15, 1976, general elections.

However, he contested the St Andrew West Rural constituency in the October 1980 general elections but was unsuccessful, with the PNP only winning nine of the 53 seats.

On the other hand, in 2006, he was an active member of the successful Team Portia Campaign Committee.

In 2012, he became chairman of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica and worked very closely with then Minister Anthony Hylton.

In his latter years, he worked on software programmes to promote telemedicine.

An advocate for public health

Commenting on Davidson’s death, health minister Dr Christopher Tufton yesterday expressed his deep regret.

Tufton described him as “an advocate for public health, a scholar, and one who provided leadership in various areas of health, including his passion for telemedicine”.

The minister also remembered him for his support and advice during the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed condolences on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the health sector to his wife, daughters, other family members, and associates.

As a public-health specialist and telemedicine research pioneer, the late professor also served as professor, public health and health technology and head of the University of Technology School of Public Health and Health Technology.

Davidson received his medical training from the University of the West Indies during the period 1965 to 1971 and was successful in the American Examination for Foreign Medical Graduates in 1971. He also received his Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool, England in 1975.

In early 1989, he became chairman of the National Council of Drug Abuse, where we both served on the board for a number of years.

He was a founding member of the Jamaica Public Health Doctors Association and the Jamaica Menopause Society, respectively, and a former president of the Medical Association of Jamaica.

Given his vast contribution to the development of Jamaica, he was awarded a number of honours and awards in recognition of his work.

Among those were the Commander of the Order of Distinction for Services to Medicine in 2003 and the Pearl Award in 2008 for over 30 years of distinguished and outstanding service to the people of Jamaica as justice of the peace in St Andrew.