Sentara CEO Kern announces retirement plans
Search for replacement is underway
Howard P. Kern, Sentara Healthcare’s president and CEO, announced his planned retirement Friday. A search for his replacement is already underway, the Norfolk-based health system said in a statement, and Kern will stay on until his replacement starts later this year.
Having spent 42 years with Sentara in hospital administration, finance and insurance, Kern has led the $9.8 billion, 12-hospital system since 2016.
In recent years, Sentara has opened the $93.5 million Sentara Brock Cancer Center, started a massive renovation of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, and in December 2021, Kern signed an agreement with Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School to collaborate more closely on health care for the Hampton Roads region, which Kern said is the largest metropolitan area without a state university-based medical school.
Last year, Kern also announced that Sentara would not merge with North Carolina’s Cone Health, which would have created an $11.5 billion system with 17 hospitals.
Kern made moves in the area of health insurance, creating Sentara’s first health plans and its first business, Optima Health, which acquired VCU Health’s Virginia Premier Health Plan in April 2020. Sentara was listed as one of the nation’s top five large health systems in the 2021 annual ranking by Fortune and IBM Watson Health. It employs more than 1,200 physicians and 30,000 other people.
“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. That said, Sentara is entering a new era in health care, and I believe the time for new leadership is now. I will forever remain personally devoted to Sentara Healthcare and the people who make it great,” Kern said in a statement. “I will support the board and new CEO in whatever way I can to ensure a smooth transition that assures continued success for that individual, the system and our communities.”