David Bernd, CEO, Sentara Healthcare, Norfolk, Va., has led Sentara Healthcare for more than 20 years during which time the system achieved significant volume growth and won national quality awards. Bernd announced he would be retiring in March.

What makes a trustee good at his or her job?

BERND: In today’s complex health care environment, a board of directors is a very valuable tool and I think the board of directors needs to serve the communities in which [they live]. I think they need to be of a diverse background, and I also think they need to be of a diverse background from a skills standpoint.

Today’s board of directors must be much more sophisticated than they were in the past to help us address the health care system. As I said, it’s a much more complex business today than it was when I started.

What advice would you give to a leader just starting out in today’s health care environment?

BERND: First of all, get a good education. Make sure that you have a passion for the industry and that you’re going into the industry for the right purpose and reason. I think Sentara’s been able to demonstrate that if you concentrate on clinical quality, patient safety and the success of the organization, growth and finances will follow — but quality, safety and success must be the main focus.

Under your leadership, Sentara has been recognized for improving patient safety. What would you tell others who want to improve in this way?

BERND: Patient safety is a journey of continual improvement. It’s the responsibility of every single employee. Be creative and take risks, and look outside our industry for the good examples of how we can do a better job.

How is health care doing in its transition to offering value-based care and reimbursement?

BERND: I think it’s doing pretty well. The provider side of the industry is really taking transformation of care and population health to heart. People are doing a much better job in trying to standardize care and drive out variations in outcomes. They’re working hard on clinical quality and patient safety, and I think those are things that drive success. If you look at the overall statistics for our industry, the trend is heading in the right direction.

Do you have any fun plans for retirement?

BERND: Sure do. I’m going to stay involved in the health care industry, chair a number of outside boards and remain involved in my community.  I hope to take some time off and do some traveling with my wife and spend time with the grandkids. I’m looking forward to it.