Statement: Denise Duncan, RN, on the unexpected death of KP CEO Bernard Tyson

The following is a statement from UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan, RN, on the unexpected death of Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson.

For years, Bernard Tyson has been a key advocate and spokesperson for social issues and the right to quality health care. I didn’t develop a real appreciation for his presence in the community until he took over as Kaiser Permanente CEO in 2013.

As a nurse leader, I noticed the power of Bernard’s voice nationally and began to see his true fondness for working people. I, like many, have been part of conferences where he was a keynote speaker. I’ve followed his writings and quotes along the way. He began to speak boldly to the needs of the underserved, social justice issues, health disparity, and beating back homelessness. Bernard exemplified what so many of us believe: These are issues health care leaders should be about.

I observed how close so many union members were to him. He understood what they valued and understood their history. It made them feel he came from the same place. Even though we all knew he was surrounded by bodyguards, he was accessible to Kaiser Permanente employees. He’d stand in a room and take selfies with the crowd. He was truly a part of them.

Bernard traveled to Southern California this past year to see our teams’ best practices. He listened carefully to staff presentations. He’d speak to the power of our union members and what they brought to the community of patients who receive care at Kaiser Permanente. He’d then go on to highlight this level of work when he spoke to audiences outside of Kaiser Permanente and that made such a difference to so many of us.

He was so far ahead of what most of our employers speak for each day: presence in the community, quality of care, the design of care, enhancing work through innovation, and lifelong learning.

On behalf of UNAC/UHCP, we will miss Bernard Tyson and his leadership.