Paul Bernstein, M.D., FACS, is the area medical director for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego where he serves as chief of staff for the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, which provides care for more than 520,000 San Diegans. A practicing head and neck surgeon, Dr. Bernstein is known for his aggressive emphasis on innovative patient care with a focus on improving patient quality outcomes and their overall health experience. During his four years leading the group, KP San Diego has garnered 15 Guinness World Records on wellness and prevention, earned numerous national and service quality awards for cancer screenings, hypertension control and more, and has become a nationally recognized leader in telemedicine and virtual care.
A history buff, Dr. Bernstein founded the Kaiser Permanente Historical Society and is a published author with works that include “Courage to Heal,” a historical novel telling the true story of Dr. Sidney Garfield, who, along with industrialist Henry Kaiser, created the first health maintenance organization. His latest book is a medical thriller, “Flashblind.”
Kaiser Permanente is the nation’s leading integrated not-for-profit health plan. In San Diego, the organization employs more than 7,700 staff and 1,100 physicians, and serves more than 520,000 members at 24 medical facilities and two hospitals.
Essential working philosophy: “Problems are opportunities in work clothes.” “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
Best way to keep a competitive edge: Never say it can’t be done because you will always be interrupted by those doing it.
Guiding principles: “You can never do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we,’ then illness becomes wellness.”
Yardsticks of success: The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.
Goals yet to be achieved: For Kaiser Permanente to lead as the health care system of choice and transform care from “sick care” to “health care — prevention and wellness.”
Best professional decision: To join Kaiser Permanente 33 years ago.
Toughest professional decision: To become medical director and only do surgery one night a week.
Biggest missed opportunity: Not getting a new KP hospital in San Diego sooner than 2017.
Mentor: Maurice Alfaro, M.D.
What you like best about your job: Improving patient care (quality, access, service). We are the recipients of the CAPE and Leapfrog Top Hospital Awards. We have set more Guinness World Records on wellness and prevention than any medical group in the world.
Most important lesson learned: When a goal matters enough, you will find a way to accomplish what at first seemed impossible.
Person most interested in meeting: Henry Kaiser.
Three greatest passions: Family, patient care, writing.
First choice for a new career: Movie director.
Most influential book: “Henry J. Kaiser: Western Colossus” by Albert Heiner.
Favorite status symbol: Tesla Model S.
Favorite restaurant: Mille Fleurs.
Favorite place for business meetings: Rancho Valencia.
Favorite vacation spot: Botswana (Wilderness Safaris).
Favorite way to spend time: Movies, writing.