"An outstanding leader, visionary and champion for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, Bernard was a tireless advocate for Kaiser Permanente, our members and the communities we serve. Most importantly, Bernard was a devoted husband, father and friend. We all will miss his tremendous presence in our lives."

By Ian Horswill


Posted on November 11, 2019

Bernard J Tyson, the chairman and CEO of the US’ largest healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, has died. He was undoubtedly a leading authority on public health in the US.

Tyson, the first African-American chairman in Kaiser Permanent’s history, was aged 60. He grew Kaiser Permanente into the country’s largest healthcare provider, with 12 million members and revenue of US$55 billion.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce that Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, unexpectedly passed away early today in his sleep. On behalf of our Board of Directors, employees and physicians, we extend our deepest sympathies to Bernard’s family during this very difficult time,” Kaiser Permanente said in a 10 November statement.

“An outstanding leader, visionary and champion for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, Bernard was a tireless advocate for Kaiser Permanente, our members and the communities we serve. Most importantly, Bernard was a devoted husband, father and friend. We all will miss his tremendous presence in our lives.”

Tyson, who has a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA degree from Golden Gate University, in his home city of San Francisco, begun as an intern at the company he eventually ran more than 30 years ago. He was appointed Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente on 6 November 2012.

Just last week, Tyson attended at least three conferences, speaking about health care and technology, most recently at Afrotech, a technology conference in Oakland, California, where he talked about health equity.

“Bernard was an exceptional colleague, a passionate leader, and an honorable man. We will greatly miss him,” said board member Edward Pei, Chair of the Executive Committee and the Governance Accountability and Nominating Committee for Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J Tyson

In 4 December 2014, Tyson wrote on LinkedIn what it was like to be a black-skinned man in the US.

“If you’re not black, it’s hard to relate to situations as a black man might. So you know I’m speaking from a realistic rather than theoretical standpoint, here are a few personal examples I’ve experienced in the past couple of months:

“Recently I was shopping in an upscale store and I was being watched and also followed by an overly anxious person. This was not someone trying to be helpful, but someone who was assessing why I was there. Other shoppers did not have ‘help’ following them throughout the store.

“I have gone to dinner at fine restaurants and had the food server explain the tipping program, since apparently black men don’t understand this concept.

“Sometimes I observe two or three white customers ahead of me and after me pay by credit card — and I am the only one singled out to provide proof of who I am before I can make my purchase.

“Most CEOs don’t leave their corporate offices, change clothes, and have car doors locked as they walk by or women move to the other side of the street hugging their purses as they see me out exercising. Even as a CEO, the black male experience is my reality.

“The pursuit of life, liberty and happiness can become a reality for everyone if we eliminate issues standing in the way of improved race relations. I love this country and we’ve made so much progress, but we’re not there yet. With deeper understanding and thoughtful and positive participation, America — and Americans — can live up to our full potential in a country built on diversity of thought, spirit, race and experience.”

Effective immediately, the board of directors named Gregory A. Adams, Executive Vice President and Group President, as interim Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente.