It is with extreme sadness that we heard about the death of Dr Danie Pauw, our beloved head and founder of Health24, late last week.
His sudden passing, at just 56 years old, has come as a great shock to his family, friends and colleagues, to whom he was such a constant, supportive and loyal presence. Danie was someone who inspired love in people – even when there were differences of opinion.
After qualifying as a medical doctor at Stellenbosch University, Danie worked in Canada and Durban as a general practitioner in the early nineties, after which he founded South Africa's first telephonic medical information service, Meditel, in 1997.
From this grew Yourhealth.co.za, a consumer health website, which ultimately became Health24.com.
Health24, a joint venture between Danie and Media24/24.com from 2001, was his vision and his passion, and remains his legacy. Health24 is a digital health platform that over the years has provided many users with solid medical information in an accessible and understandable format.
His passion was to use technology to make health information easy to understand. His mantra "There's a health angle to everything", formed the basis of many a health writer's training at this site over the last 18 years.
"He cared so much about the quality and success of the site, and its potential for helping all South Africans learn about their bodies, health, problems and solutions. He could be honestly stubborn about what was needed, and about the need for high standards," said Danie's long-time friend and colleague, Health24's CyberShrink, Professor Michael Simpson.
"He found a unique way of making a special contribution to SA healthcare, using his skills and drive. I'm sure he was a great GP. When we chatted about medical matters his breadth of professional knowledge was unusual and special.
"In a way he became a mega-doc, serving the country and beyond," Prof Simpson said.
He was open-minded and not afraid to take risks – he let his writers do new and exciting things, sometimes on the very edges of the health field, thereby encouraging the professional development of many of those working under him. He had passion for his cause, and was an inspirational speaker – he could make anything seem possible.
Danie, for his medical background, loved the creative process of content creation and could spend hours sifting through images, labouring over finding the perfect word and searching for interesting ways to create quality content.
For those who knew him well, he had a quirky sense of humour, and would often find humour in the strangest places – which he didn’t mind sharing!
Danie was a rare individual in the corporate world in that he took people at face value – something which says much about his character. He was a good person to have in your corner.
And that's just it – he was a truly good person, kind, fair, egalitarian and compassionate; sometimes much more so to others than to himself.
"Communicating with a range of people who have worked with him, something many of them said is that he had changed their life; that he had given them a chance even when they didn't have obvious qualifications, and let them develop and show the skill he recognised in them," said Prof Simpson.
"In Danie, we have lost such a good friend and just a really good man. Yes, he was an effective administrator and creator, a good doctor, on the small and large scale. But he was more than merely respected; he was also loved, and that is much more rare, in any sort of business."
Danie was someone who touched the lives of everyone with whom he came into contact and he, his passion and enthusiasm, will be sorely missed by those who knew him – and by the millions of users whose lives he ultimately affected without their being directly aware of it. Danie was truly one of life’s genuinely good people.
He is survived by his parents, Dr John and Leonie Pauw, formerly from Durban, and now living in Cape Town, and his sisters Ilse, Heidi-Lee and Liesel van Niekerk, all from Cape Town.
Rest in peace, Danie.