Profiles: Bernard Tyson
Chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente
Making Meaningful Contributions and Thriving
Bernard Tyson's passion for health care started at an early age. Growing up in Vallejo, California in a house built by his carpenter and pastor father, Tyson could see how much his parents relied upon the doctors who cared for his diabetic mother and he admired those doctors immensely. His mother stayed home to raise Tyson and his other six siblings. Initially Bernard intended to become a physician, but after his grandfather passed away, he decided on health care management instead. This path would lead him first to Golden Gate University for his education in health services management and onward to Kaiser Permanente for a spectacular career spanning more than two decades. His ambition would take him from business school intern to the top levels of management. He currently serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kaiser Permanente.
Straight out of high school, Tyson attended Golden Gate University for his undergraduate degree in the health services management program. Several people recommended GGU to him but warned that the university was geared toward working professionals. As a younger student, they warned that he might find it challenging to have older, more mature students as his classmates. Instead, Tyson saw this as a great opportunity to learn from these working professionals. Taking a semester off to get married after receiving his BS in Health Services Management in 1982, he returned to GGU for his MBA in Health Care Administration and Management, which he completed in 1985.
Tyson credits GGU for giving him a strong education, from the topics covered in the classes to the instructors and classmates. "I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be in classes with professionally trained people in the field and learned a lot from different classmates," he recounts. "I enjoyed the richness of the discussions. Students were able to apply realities to the theories and areas being covered in class."
The experience reinforced his belief that one day he would be running a hospital and providing outstanding service to the community. "My degree was extremely instrumental and helpful for my career development, and Kaiser Permanente employs many GGU alumni."
While a student in GGU's MBA program, Tyson came to Kaiser Permanente for a six month internship and was hired full-time after only three months. He jokes, "I still owe Kaiser Permanente three months of free labor."
First hired as Director of the Outpatient Medical Records Department in San Francisco, he moved into a managerial role in the file room. "My talent, he says, was to go into an area, scope out the issues and challenges and then drive change."
His wish to run a hospital was fulfilled in 1992.
"It's funny," he says, "in my career at Kaiser Permanente, I finally got promoted to hospital administrator in Santa Rosa, California. I was technically in the job less than a year, and they moved me into a regional role to help reorganize Northern California. That was when I started up the health-plan track. It was that process that exposed me to the broader workings of Kaiser. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I'd be doing what I'm doing today."