St. Louis Hires First Black Woman Physician Public Health Director In City’s Nearly 260 Year History


October 28, 2021

She has been a key expert during the COVID-19 pandemic!

St. Louis hired their first Black woman physician to become public health director in the city’s nearly 260-year-history, KSDK news reports. Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis is an immigrant from Zimbabwe who came to St. Louis, Missouri, six years ago to participate in an infectious disease fellowship at Washington University. 

“I came to the U.S. to explore my undergraduate education and medical school, always knowing I wanted to be in infectious diseases because I saw how HIV impacted by country,” she explained. 


During the beginning of the pandemic, she became one of the key experts, being featured on national and international news outlets. She shared her knowledge on how to handle COVID-19, specifically as it relates to marginalized populations. Now, the city has made history, naming Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis as its new public health director, making her the first Black female physician to ever hold the title since the city’s founding 257 years ago. 

“My young daughters Aneni and Aniso got to see their mother being sworn in as the first Black female physician director of health for the city; that is so powerful,” said Hlatshwayo Davis.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis


In her new role, she plans to continue leading the city through the pandemic, focusing first and foremost on improving employee retention in the city.

“Can we find innovative ways to make sure that staff knows that they’re valued while we work on more systemic issues that will help people make sure that they’re paid equitably and at levels that they can support themselves and their family,” she said. 

Hlatshwayo Davis also touched on the importance of making vaccines accessible for everyone who wants to get it. 


“Now, we have the FDA considering an emergency use authorization for children aged five and above [and] that will be my immediate goal and target,” she added. 

The new director says she will continue keeping the city’s mask mandate in place and also encouraged the public to take the STL City community survey on the Department of Health website to give their input on public health. 

“My job and my level of expertise is to be able to critically look at that data on an ongoing basis so that if you have questions, I can tell you why we still need that masking mandate, and until I believe that the data does not support it, we will be continuing with that masking mandate,” she said.


Congratulations, Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis! Because of you, we can!

Photo Courtesy of St. Louis Missouri Gov

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