Howard Kern, former COO of 18 years, assumes role as the new president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare.

CEO Kern assumes role, promotes COO from within

Howard Kern

Sentara Healthcare recently named Howard P. Kern the new President and CEO of the organization, assuming the role Friday, March 4.

Kern succeeds former CEO of 21 years David L. Bernd, following his retirement. With support from Kern, Michael V. Gentry, current Senior Corporate Vice President of Sentara, was appointed as the new Chief Operating Officer (COO) in January.

“During these past 18 years working as COO alongside Dave, I’ve watched Sentara flourish into the high quality integrated health system it is today,” expressed Kern. “We are an organization founded on quality, innovation and the pursuit of advanced technologies and processes which drive improved outcomes and, ultimately, an exceptional patient experience.  I am most proud to be able to partner with our physicians and staff to assure that we meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

The not-for-profit system has 12 hospitals, four medical groups with more than 900 providers spanning across Virginia and North Carolina, a health plan with more than 450,000 members, and life care and home care services. Over the course of his career at Sentara, Kern’s leadership has directly impacted the strong operational and financial performance of the company, as well as the strategic direction.

In addition to building on the successes of Bernd, Kern has identified three key areas of focus which will guide his tenure as CEO, including Clinical Performance Improvement, innovation and growth and customer centricity. 

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for Sentara. Howard is an exceptional leader, one who has proven time and time again he will continue to meet the demands of a rapidly changing healthcare landscape,” said Sandy Harris, Chair of the Sentara Board. “On behalf of the Board, I’d like to officially welcome Howard into his new role. We look forward to partnering with him and his leadership team as we collectively work toward improving the health of the communities we serve.”

Having formerly been in the Chief Operating Officer position, one of Kern’s first orders of business was to identify a new team member to serve in that role. Michael Gentry was named COO in January.

“Mike has invaluable leadership experience, having served as President and CEO of Florida Hospital Memorial System for eight years. Since joining Sentara in 2008, he has provided important leadership in elevating our reputation for improving quality and patient safety. He oversaw the construction and completion of Sentara Princess Anne Hospital, a 160-bed acute care facility, and is responsible for Sentara Life Care Corporation which includes seven nursing centers, three assisted living facilities and PACE (Program for All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly). Mike is an exceptional leader, and I look forward to embarking on this journey with him,” said Kern.

Gentry earned his MBA from La Sierra University in Riverside, California. He is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and a member of the American Hospital Association. In addition, Mike serves on the Board for the VHHA and the CIVIC Leadership Institute and previously served on the Board for the FoodBank of Southeastern Virginia and the Bay Youth Orchestra of Virginia.

“It’s a critical time in healthcare, but I am confident in the future of Sentara with Howard at the helm,” Gentry reflected. “From our leadership team to the caregivers at the bed-side, we will work closely to continue the good work of Sentara’s legacy, focused on clinical best practices, advanced technology and exceptional patient care.”

“I look forward to working closely with Mike Gentry and the entire Sentara Leadership team to ensure our role as the trusted healthcare partner our communities deserve,” said Kern.