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Bernard J. Tyson

Chief executive officer Bernard J. Tyson was born on January 20, 1959 in Vallejo, California to Billie Tyson, a homemaker, and Moses Tyson, a minister. After graduating from Vallejo High School in 1977, Tyson enrolled at Golden Gate University. While still in college, Tyson worked as an administrative analyst for Vallejo General Hospital. He earned his B.S. degree in health service management in 1982, and went on to receive his M.B.A. degree from Golden Gate University in 1984.

In 1984, Tyson accepted a six-month internship at Kaiser Permanente and was then hired full-time in an administrative position. Tyson remained at Kaiser Permanente and in 1992, he was named chief executive officer of the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Santa Rosa, California. In 1999, he was promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer for regions outside of California and for Kaiser’s brand strategy. In 2004, the organization launched its “Thrive” advertising campaign under Tyson’s leadership. In 2006, Tyson was promoted to senior vice president for Health Plan and Hospital Operations, during which time Kaiser opened four new hospitals. In 2010, he was promoted to president and chief operating officer of Kaiser Permanente. As president, he was vocal in his support of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010 and faced significant hurdles. In 2013, he became the company’s first African American chairman and chief executive officer.

Tyson served as co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Health Governors Community. He also served on the boards of the American Heart Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and the International Federation of Health Plans. He was an American Heart Association CEO Roundtable Member and past chairman of the Executive Leadership Council.

Tyson also received many awards and honors over the course of his career. He was a recipient of the NAACP Freedom Act Award in 2001 and was named Golden Gate University's Alumnus of the Year in 2007. He was named among the Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in both 2014 and 2015, and was a recipient of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s 2014 National Equal Justice Award. In 2010, Tyson was named among the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare and Top 25 Most Influential African Americans.

Tyson passed away on November 10, 2019.

Bernard Tyson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 17, 2015.

Accession Number

A2015.005

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/17/2015

Last Name

Tyson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

J.

Organizations
Schools

Farragut Elementary School

Vallejo Middle School

Vallejo High School

Golden Gate University

Springstowne Junior High School

First Name

Bernard

Birth City, State, Country

Vallejo

HM ID

TYS02

Favorite Season

Thanksgiving

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

God Bless America

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/20/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Spaghetti

Death Date

11/10/2019

Short Description

Chief executive officer and chief executive officer Bernard J. Tyson (1959 - 2019) was the first African American CEO of the $60 billion healthcare organization, Kaiser Permanente.

Employment

Kaiser Permanente

Vallejo General Hospital

Favorite Color

Burgundy

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bernard J. Tyson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bernard J. Tyson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers his family's storytelling

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bernard J. Tyson reflects upon his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers his early experiences in the Church of God in Christ

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bernard J. Tyson describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bernard J. Tyson lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls his father's work as a carpenter

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers his father's work as a builder

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about his father's love of cars

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bernard J. Tyson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about the importance of music in his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers attending Farragut Elementary School in Vallejo, California

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls his experiences at Springstowne Junior High School in Vallejo, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers the influence of attorney Lewis G. Brown

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his middle school and high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his personality in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers experiencing racial harassment

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his relationship with his father in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about his relationship with his cousin, Sly Stone

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls his decision to enroll at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers staying with Sly Stone's family in San Francisco, California

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers Sly Stone's career

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his internship at Vallejo General Hospital in Vallejo, California

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls his trajectory to Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls his transition from resident to manager at Kaiser Pernamente

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about his first experiences as a hospital manager

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bernard J. Tyson describes how Kaiser Permanente differs from other medical systems

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls the administrative positions leading to his appointment as a hospital administrator

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers the African American administrators who preceded him at Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about his experiences as a hospital administrator

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers restructuring the Northern California region of Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about the emergence of health maintenance organizations in the 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about Kaiser Permanente's financial situation in the 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls Kaiser Permanente's challenges outside of California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his experiences with Kaiser Permanente on the East Coast

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about his responsibilities as regional president of Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers the creation of an electronic records system at Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bernard J. Tyson describes Kaiser Permanente's approach to advertising

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bernard J. Tyson recalls his engagement with federal policymakers in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about what he learned from his time in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bernard J. Tyson describes Kaiser Permanente's influence on the Clinton healthcare initiative

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about developing Kaiser Permanente's brand image

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Bernard J. Tyson remembers his transition to being vice president of Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Bernard J. Tyson talks about his relationship with George Halvorson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Bernard J. Tyson reflects upon his appointment to CEO of Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Bernard J. Tyson describes his vision as the CEO of Kaiser Permanente

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Bernard J. Tyson reflects upon his legacy as a CEO

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Bernard J. Tyson reflects upon his personal legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Bernard J. Tyson recalls his decision to enroll at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California
Bernard J. Tyson talks about his first experiences as a hospital manager
Transcript
How is it decided when you're going to col- you know, where you're going to go to college? And, and is that a, a definite thing? Immediately?$$Yes.$$Okay.$$Yeah. In fact, I decided where, and I picked Golden Gate University [San Francisco, California], because I was absolutely certain that I wanted to be a hospital administrator.$$Which is, where does that come from?$$Because I--my mother [Billie Haynes Tyson] was in the hospital a lot when we were growing up.$$Because she had diabetes (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Diabetes.$$But this is interes- because it was hereditary, right, because her--your grandmother [Tyson's maternal great-aunt, Rosie Haynes Garrett] had had it, right?$$Right. And so, my mother spent a lot of time on health and health care. So, my mother had a great set of doctors who were just passionate about her, at least from my view, and therefore, us. So, I had this imagery growing up, that, you know, doctors in white coats were wonderful people, because of how they attended after my mother, and also with us as a result of that. So when we were growing up, there were several times my mother--many times, but not many, many, many--but several times my mother would end up in the hospital. And I remember going into that environment and the doctors were, you know, providing care, and there was obviously such a great respect for them, and I grew up wanting to be like that. And then later on, clearly I began to, you know, gravitate in my own mind that I'm going to run my hospital, and I learned that from understanding what a hospital administrator did. And so when I got to high school [Vallejo Senior High School; Vallejo High School, Vallejo, California] I was looking at going to colleges, and Golden Gate University came up, and I honestly don't even remember how it came up. I started to do research, and I learned that the uniqueness of that particular school was that many of the students were already in the profession. And I thought that was like a godsend that--you know, I didn't want to go to college, you know, to hang out at college. I went to college on the mission of, you will go to school, and so I saw the benefit, in my mind, of being around people who did this every single day. And whether or not that had anything to do with how I was oriented, I don't know, but it made sense to me. And so I wasn't even sure that I would be able to get in, because I didn't have that experience. So, I went through the whole process and then they accepted me into the school.$$And that--there were, as I had read, there're a lot of older students there, right?$$Right.$$Okay.$$Right.$$And people were saying you shouldn't go there?$$Right.$$Did the--okay.$$Yeah, yeah, yeah, people were saying, "You shouldn't go there." My father [Moses Tyson, Sr.] was encouraging, so he was just proud, as it turned out. And, you know, I had people saying, "No, you shouldn't go there. You should go to a junior college or a university." And, and I, you know, I don't want to say I rejected that. I think I viewed the whole decision of going to school--you know, I obviously got help from a lot of people, but it's sort of like, I did it, you know. I felt like I had put myself in school. And I hold to this day that that was a great--that was a great decision. And I was scared and I was young, and, and I guess I was ambitious, but, you know, it, I had to get used to it, because there were so many older people there.$So, tell me then what you do then as manager [at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, San Francisco, California]. And you said you were assessing? How do you even know what to assess at that point? Were you just--you know, I know you had said you had learned to look at data. But were you just observing, you know, how to (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, yeah, everything. I was observing, you know, what the workers were doing. I looked at a lot of data, you know. So, for example, they had a problem with--obviously this is thirty something years ago, but it's pretty accurate. They had a problem with--during that time, every lab slip had to be filed into medical records, so they had stacks of lab slips and they were behind. And it was a frustration for the physician, because you get the medical records and not all the medical information was in there. And so, that was one of the areas that I studied. And so I studied--I did a numbers count: how many of these slips do you have? And I did a people count: how many people are here? And then I worked with the lab techs--I mean the filers, and I would like at how many can they get done in an eight hour day? And so I started to do the analysis, and then I came up with the recommendation that two things were broken: one, the whole system was broken. Because why put the lab slip in the department when somehow you can match it to the record when the slip is available. So, you're just in time; that was my thought process. But the second one, more importantly, was I just did a number count, and said, every day, in essence, at that time, the manpower available times the time that each of them will spend, times how many they can get done against how many are coming--I can tell you what the backlog is going to be. And so, and Alva [Alva Wheatley] loved that work and that thinking, and so that was just one of maybe four or five areas. So, I put together those kinds of recommendations and said, you know, the workers needed to be better allocated, if you will, in the areas of the file room. So, instead of having someone going all over the file room, you pre-sort the lab slips into sections and you give Bernard [HistoryMaker Bernard J. Tyson] this area, because they're all numbered. And so I used to put those things together, and I put together the recommendations. And she said, "These are great. Now, you go and do it." And I was like, "It'll be very hard as a resident." So, then they hired me on as the manager, and that was the start. And then I turned that department around, and to this day, thirty something years later, I still go visit. And I still have employees in that area that were there when I was the manager, and every promotion that I've gotten in the organization, I would go into that department. And I have to say, those individuals are so proud of me, and I'm proud of them. In fact, I was in there when--after I became chairman and CEO [of Kaiser Permanente]. I went in there and we took pictures and selfies and everything. And I told them, I said, "As long as I'm here, you can--you are guaranteed that we're going to all leave together. So, nothing's going to happen to you while I'm here." You know, we had jokes like that, and they were wonderful. You know, and that's when I really had my first experience in quote (air quotes) managing people. And it was a great experience, and I had a great department, you know. And, and here was a group of what they called unmotivated people and everything, and they were fantastic; I mean they were fantastic. And I challenged them and we had fun, and we got the work done. You know, we had meetings, I informed them what was going on. It was just, you know, a very good time, and, and I got the work done.