The world has lost a remarkable leader and we have lost a cherished friend and colleague. Bernard J. Tyson was the epitome of honour and his untimely passing has sent shockwaves across the global community. In times of great loss, we find ourselves asking what to do and where to go from here. But as we reflect on the ideals that Bernard stood so passionately for, honoring his legacy becomes clear.
Known as one of the leading experts on health policy, Bernard was the only African American CEO of a billion-dollar corporation of comparable size in California and one of only five African American CEOs leading major corporations in America. In 2017, Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 Most Influential people. He was also named by Modern Healthcare as one of the most influential people in health care for five consecutive years.
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Bernard’s influence was felt both nationally and internationally and as a steward of the World Economic Forum’s Global Challenge on the Future of Health and Healthcare, he paved the way for tremendous change. Bernard’s ability to convene unique stakeholders and inspire them to work together helped to shape policies and dialogue that reduce health inequities based on race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status or geography.
Earlier this year, Bernard hosted a mental health and wellness summit at the 2019 World Economic Forum where we witnessed Bernard influencing positive change for future generations. He shared the stage with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, during a panel discussion on Mental Health Matters. As host of Kaiser Permanente’s mental health and wellness summit at the Forum, he urged global leaders to 1) reduce the stigma of mental illness by encouraging an open dialogue, 2) tackle inequity in mental health care, 3) move from sick-care to well-care by focusing on prevention and 4) integrate mental health services into primary care systems.
Bernard was tenacious in challenging employers to improve mental health worldwide. He urged us to recognize those struggling with mental health challenges and make the world a more prosperous place for future generations.
We will miss Bernard’s huge laughter in Davos in the years to come. We will also remember how intensely he could switch from perfecting existing Forum Healthcare initiatives as the Chair of our community from 2014 to 2016, to trailblazing new ones like mental health and social determinants of health.
The World Economic Forum is proud to support the American Heart Association’s Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being. Bernard’s family has asked that this fund honor his legacy by powering work in health disparities, mental health and social determinants of health as we strive to give all people the best opportunity for a long and healthy life.
In addition to investing in research and engaging communities, the American Heart Association is proud to join forces with Kaiser Permanente in Bernard’s memory to create the Preventing Youth Nicotine Addiction Policy Fund which will support policies to prevent youth e-cigarette use, and fuel legislative and grassroots efforts to address this public health crisis.
What Bernard leaves behind will outlive us all.