After 43 years with Sentara Healthcare - 21 years as CEO - David Bernd will retire March 3, 2016.

CEO Bernd to retire in 2016, Kern to assume role

David Bernd

Sentara Healthcare CEO David L. Bernd has announced he will retire on March 3, 2016, bringing to a close a 43-year career with 21 years at the helm. Under his leadership, Sentara has become an innovative, integrated health system that is recognized nationally for quality and patient safety. Upon his retirement, Howard P. Kern, the current President and Chief Operating Officer of Sentara Healthcare, will assume the role of CEO. 

“Since Dave Bernd became Chief Executive Officer of Sentara Health System (now Sentara Healthcare) in March 1995, he has built a quality healthcare system focused on clinical best practices, advanced technology and exceptional patient care,” said Bob Fort, chairman of the board. “His commitment to excellence has positioned Sentara to be recognized for 15 years as one of the nation’s top integrated healthcare systems, including three times as #1, according to Modern Healthcare. Dave’s leadership has extended beyond Sentara to national and state levels. Dave served as chairman of the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees in 2004, making him the top elected official of the largest hospital and health system association in the United States at that time. Dave chaired the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association from November 1994 - October 1995, and just this year was named by Virginia Business as one of Virginia’s 50 Most Influential Leaders.  He also served on many boards ranging from being Rector at Old Dominion University to the Chair of the YMCA of South Hampton Roads Board.”

In announcing his retirement, Bernd said, "After four decades with the company and 21 years as CEO, it will be bittersweet to say goodbye, but I’m excited to see what this next chapter for Sentara will look like and have confidence in the future. When I became CEO, I held the belief that clinical quality and patient safety should be our #1 priority. I am proud of the hard work and dedication of our physicians, clinicians, nurses and members of the team to make this a reality as we all live the Sentara mission to improve health every day. I move on with confidence in the service Sentara delivers to the communities we serve. I’m honored to have worked alongside a team of truly smart and dedicated operational and clinical leaders that come together to take health care to the next level.” 

From 1995 when Bernd assumed the CEO position to today, Sentara has seen remarkable growth and transformation. In 1995, Sentara was a $600 million company serving Hampton Roads with four hospitals, a newly formed 63-physician medical group and a 143,000-member health plan. Today, Sentara is a $4.7 billion, multi-state, integrated system with 12 hospitals, four medical groups with 900+ providers, a 450,000+ member health plan, and life care and home care services.

Under his leadership, Sentara has not only become the largest health system in Virginia based on revenue and the fifth largest employer, but the company has also developed a national reputation for safety, quality and innovation.  Bernd’s priority of improving quality and nurturing a culture of patient safety has been a cornerstone of providing care for the communities we serve, and he has led the organization into a new era of health care, caring for defined populations and transforming the way health care is provided.

At the heart of all Mr. Bernd’s accomplishments is the commitment to service – through the care we provide to our patients and to expanding the access to care for those unable to afford it. Sentara reinvests all earnings from operations back into the community and organization, and in 2014, Sentara provided more than $307 million in community benefits.

A major factor in the success of Sentara has also been the leadership of Howard Kern who has been COO alongside Bernd for the past 18 years. 

Over the course of his Sentara career, Mr. Kern’s leadership has had a direct impact on the strong operational and financial performance of the company, as well as the strategic direction Sentara has taken.

Mr. Kern received his Master of Health Administration degree from the Medical College of Virginia in 1981, after receiving his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a member of numerous professional and community organizations. He served on the board of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association from 2003 and was its chairman in 2012. This diverse personal and professional leadership experience has prepared Mr. Kern to seamlessly move into the role of CEO where he will continue to champion quality, patient safety, the delivery of an extraordinary patient experience and strategic growth.

“Howard has been a strong, strategic leader and a major force behind Clinical Performance Improvement, an initiative designed to achieve rapid and significant clinical improvements that are scalable and sustainable," said Sandy Harris, current Vice-Chairman and in-coming Chairman of the Sentara Board. “Combined with his history with Sentara and his knowledge of the healthcare industry, Howard is set to usher Sentara into its next chapter.”

“It’s been a privilege to work with Dave in shaping a healthcare system designed to meet the demands of a rapidly changing landscape. I’m proud to continue the work we started as we innovate and challenge ourselves to grow smart and respond to the increasingly retail, digital and on-demand expectations of our consumers, further improve quality and patient safety, as well as the customer experience,” said Kern. "Dave has built a strong reputation and legacy for Sentara that will continue to be shaped as we take part in the national conversation about what health care should look like in the future.”

“It’s been an honor to be a part of the Sentara story and the broader national healthcare conversation,” reflected Bernd. “As Howard steps into the role of CEO after I retire, he brings with him strong leadership skills and experience. COOs have an important role as operational and financial leaders, but Howard is equally passionate and focused on clinical quality, strategy planning, smart growth and transformation of care. He is a strong visionary and a skilled strategist who has played a central role in our evolving strategic plan. His ability to motivate others to be innovative will benefit Sentara and the communities we serve moving forward.”