By Kenya Godette

Old Dominion University appointed Howard P. Kern as a distinguished professor of executive practice for the future Joint School of Public Health.

In 2021, ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., Norfolk State University (NSU) President Javaune Adams-Gaston, Ph.D. and Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) President, Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine Alfred Abuhamad, M.D. committed to establishing a School of Public Health in southeastern Virginia. This move aims to advance health equity in the region through education, practice experiences and community partnerships.

With more than 40 years of experience in health care management and leadership, Kern will help develop the educational landscape of the future school and hopes to elevate its visibility and reputation at both the regional and national levels.

"Howard’s visionary leadership, unmatched experience, and undeniable expertise have been both tested and proven during his professional career and through his dedicated service,” President Hemphill said. “His steadfast commitment to excellence and unwavering passion for advancing health equity have positioned him as a critical partner in our collaborative efforts to shape the future of public health education. Howard has been a long-standing member of the Old Dominion University family, and we look forward to the many ways in which our partnership will continue to grow in the months and years to come!"

As distinguished professor of executive practice, Kern will:

  • Coordinate seminars on topics related to health care management and leadership.
  • Collaborate with the future school’s outreach team to develop strategic relationships with key community stakeholders and partners.
  • Assist with the placement of students for internships and practicum experiences.

“As we embark on this transformative journey towards advancing health equity in Virginia, I am honored to join forces with Norfolk State University and Eastern Virginia Medical School in shaping the future of public health education,” Kern said. “Through collaboration, innovation and a commitment to community partnership, we will build a school of public health that not only educates but also empowers.”

Kern is a nationally recognized expert in health care leadership, having dedicated more than four decades to Sentara Health. Under his leadership as president, Sentara Health became the largest health system and the second-largest private employer in Virginia, recognized for excellence in clinical quality and customer experience.

“Kern’s impact on our region’s health care delivery system has been remarkable,” said Li-Wu Chen, Ph.D., founding dean and professor for the future Joint School of Public Health.  “We are fortunate that our future students will be able to learn from him.”

Kern has received honors such as leading health care executive by Becker's Hospital Review and Forbes, one of Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2018, is regularly named among the 50 Most Influential Virginians by Virginia Business and was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame in 2021.

“His long-standing commitment to community service and collaboration remind each of us about the importance of working together to improve public health in our region,” EVMS President Abuhamad said.

Kern also received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Service Award from the Volunteer Hampton Roads organization and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from ODU in 2022.

"A cornerstone of the future Joint School of Public Health will be partnerships with a diverse mix of individuals, organizations and communities dedicated to health equity and academic public health,” NSU President Adams-Gaston said. “Kern's experience and expertise will be an invaluable resource for Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School faculty, staff and students engaged in building and enhancing community health throughout Hampton Roads."

Photo: Kern providing remarks at ODU's 2022 undergraduate ceremony for the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Health Sciences, the College of Sciences and the School of Cybersecurity.