Tribute to Stephen Taylor

26 May 2022
26 May 2022

Stephen Paul Taylor

19 May 1957 – 03 January 2022

Steve Taylor grew up in the Stilfontein mining community and graduated with his MBChB at the University of Cape in 1981, the same year as his future wife Mary Boltman.  He went on to specialise in Community Health and took up a post in the UCT Department of Community Health after completing his specialisation.  In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he was a driving force behind the establishment of the Health Economics Unit at UCT (working with Di McIntyre, William Pick and Jack Klopper on this project).  He played a particularly important role in engaging with clinicians and allaying their concerns about how the fledgling discipline of health economics may impact on the health system and their clinical practice. His unparallel networking skills and irrepressible enthusiasm smoothed the path for what could have been a rocky road to the start of health professional and health economist collaboration in South Africa.

He left UCT to work in the Eastern Cape in 1993, initially as medical superintendent at Frere Hospital where he oversaw desegregation of the hospital and supported the extension of primary care services in surrounding rural areas.  He then took on managing St Dominics Hospital in East London, later becoming the Executive Manager for Coastal Division of Life Healthcare and ended his career as Group Executive: Clinical Director for Life Healthcare.  Although working for many years in the private health care sector, he continued to contribute to the public health system, such as serving as a MEC-nominated member of the Frere Hospital Board and as a technical adviser for the Office of Health Standards Compliance.

Steve’s slightly dishevelled appearance (shirt tails always hanging out) belied his sharp intellect, innovative thinking (his ideas were often ‘left field’) and sharp wit.  He was caring, generous, always supportive of colleagues and friends, and helped many people achieve their full potential, all done with incredible humility.  He had a strong moral compass, was eternally positive, and dealt with the curveballs life threw at him with courage and determination.

He became a single parent for his two teenage daughters, Sarah and Louisa, when his wife Mary tragically died.  He fought so hard for so many years after his oesophageal cancer diagnosis, so that he could spend a bit more time with his beloved daughters … and participate in over 100 park runs.

At his funeral, Sarah noted that Robert Kennedy’s 1966 “ripple of hope” speech at UCT resonated with Steve: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

From left to right: Susan Cleary, William Pick, Di McIntyre, Steve Taylor, Marian Jacobs and Max Price at the HEUs 20th Anniversary celebration