Sentara Healthcare CEO Howard Kern to retire

Sentara Healthcare President and CEO Howard Kern, who has led the Norfolk, Va.-based system since 2016, will retire by the end of this year.

Mr. Kern, who began his career at Sentara in 1980 and was named president and CEO in February 2016, has agreed to remain in his role until the system's next president and CEO is selected and in place. A search for his successor is expected to conclude before the end of 2022.

"I am fortunate to have worked with many truly exceptional leaders, but what has really set Sentara apart from other excellent organizations has been the way these leaders have come together as a team, with a unified purpose, to accomplish extraordinary things," Mr. Kern said in a Feb. 3 news release. "That said, Sentara is entering a new era in healthcare, and I believe the time for new leadership is now."  

Under Mr. Kern's leadership, Sentara Healthcare has grown to become the largest health system in Virginia, with annual net revenues exceeding $10 billion. During his tenure, Mr. Kern helped finalize Sentara's acquisition of Virginia Premier Health Plan in partnership with Richmond, Va.-based VCU Health System. He also oversaw the development of the Sentara Brock Cancer Center in Norfolk and the beginning of construction of a new campus in Elizabeth City, N.C.

"Howard is one of the best and most focused leaders in the nation," Scott Becker, publisher of Becker's Healthcare, said. "He has an incredible focus on quality, safety and the care of the patient and the community. A great leader and magnificent career."   

Mr. Kern has been named a leading healthcare executive by several publications, including Becker's Hospital Review and Forbes. He is a nationally-recognized expert on healthcare leadership topics, including strategic growth strategies. 

"Howard's contributions to Sentara Healthcare and our communities is immeasurable. His focus on affordable quality care, improved patient outcomes, and staff satisfaction has enhanced Sentara's success," Dian Calderone, chair of Sentara's board, said. "His growth-oriented vision for the system, his commitment to community engagement and impact and health equity, and his navigation through the COVID-19 pandemic and championing public health and medical education in Hampton Roads have cemented his legacy and ensured the long-term health and welfare of the communities Sentara serves."

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