New Loma Linda CEO Pledges Alignment With Adventists

Richard Hart, chancellor and CEO of LLU has been named president and CEO of LLU Adventist Health Sciences Center, effective March 24, 2008. [LLU Photo
Richard Hart, chancellor and CEO of LLU has been named president and CEO of LLU Adventist Health Sciences Center, effective March 24, 2008. [LLU Photo]

[February 5, 2008] BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor, Adventist Review, with reporting from Loma Linda University

We intend to be very deliberate and specific about our commitment to the church and to who we are as Seventh-day Adventists," said Richard Hart, named February 25 as president and chief executive officer of Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, or LLUAHSC, in a telephone interview with Adventist Review.
Loma Linda is also poised to announce the formation of three institutes - on global health, community partnerships, and lifestyle medicine - that will further enhance the linkage of Adventism with its health practice.

"This is probably the place where the church meets the world more than anywhere," Hart said of Loma Linda, founded in 1905 at the urging of Adventist pioneer Ellen G. White, who also aided fund raising for the venture. From a small sanitarium, LLUAHSC has grown into the international leader in infant heart transplantation and proton treatments for cancer. Its medical and dental schools have trained thousands of Adventist practitioners who have carried the church's message of physical and spiritual healing to the four corners of the world.

Nearly 4,100 students from approximately 80 countries attend the university, and the medical center serves an average of 33,000 inpatients and half a million outpatients annually.

Richard Hart, chancellor and CEO of LLU has been named president and CEO of LLU Adventist Health Sciences Center, effective March 24, 2008.

Hart, himself, is a genuine product of Loma Linda. Not only did he earn his medical degree and masters in public health there, he was born at LLU.

"I was born here, and when my dad finished medical school, he moved to the northwest, and he and another [Adventist] physician operated a clinic in Troy, Idaho, which anchored a 65-member Adventist church and operated a two-room church school," Hart recalled. "That's what Loma Linda University has done well for [many] years, produced people that anchored many little islands of Adventism in many ways."

Hart's appointment caps 36 years of service with Adventism's premiere health institution. Currently chancellor and CEO of LLU, he will replace B. Lyn Behrens, MBBS, who announced last December that she would be retiring in March. LLUAHSC Board chair Lowell Cooper, a general vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, announced Hart's appointment in a statement released by the school.

"The board and search committee believe that Dr. Hart's distinguished career of service has ideally prepared him for this position," Cooper said. "As both a physician and an academician, he is knowledgeable about the unique challenges and opportunities faced by an academic health sciences center. We believe he brings both the training and the experience to lead this organization at this important time in its history, and will be able to ensure that no momentum is lost as we move forward on major expansion, fund-raising and research initiatives now in place."

The former CEO, B. Lyn Behrens, herself a physician who was the first and only pediatric resident in LLU's history, announced her resignation last year. At that time, she said, "I believe this institution is poised for unprecedented success in our work as educators of health professionals, scientists and scholars; in our ability to impact health care regionally, nationally, and globally; and in our commitment to the mission and heritage of the organization."

Said Hart, "The main issue is to continue the trend established over the last decade of maintaining LLU's alignment with church objectives, both locally and globally. Dr. Behrens has done a great job of bringing us in sync with church needs."

Hart's appointment followed the work of a search committee that included representation from the institution and board. He will assume full responsibilities on March 24. Hart will also assume the role of president of the university and the medical center, and will continue to serve as chancellor and CEO of the university until a new one is appointed, the organization said in a statement.

Hart, who has been in his current position since 2001, has served Loma Linda University in a variety of capacities since 1972 -- in various academic appointments in the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, as director of the Center for Health Promotion, and as dean of the School of Public Health.

During his tenure at LLU, Hart's passion for service and global outreach has made him a central force in launching humanitarian efforts in which students and faculty can participate. He has worked internationally to improve hospitals in underserved areas, and has made service an integral part of the university student's experience. He said he will remain connected with Adventist Health International, and continue to make overseas trips to help establish and grow hospitals and health care facilities.

"I need to continue that, both for my own sanity as well as for LLU's presence around the world," Hart said. "The church needs people out there representing the university. I don't see us pulling back from the globalization trend."

Cooper added, "Dr. Hart is deeply committed to the mission of this organization and is uniquely equipped to continue to expand the institution's global impact." Hart's extensive international experience has included prior consultancies for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Zimbabwe and in Nigeria and as a maternal and child health consultant to the Government of Tanzania. He is founder and president of Social Action Community Health System, which is a low-cost primary health care network serving Southern California's Inland Empire.

Hart received his medical and master of public health degrees from LLU, and also completed his internal medicine residency from LLUMC. He received his doctor of public health degree and completed a preventive medicine residency from Johns Hopkins University. Hart has authored three books on health and a variety of scientific articles.

He said church members should know that the institution is aware of its roots and associations: "We take very seriously the many students that our church sends us to be educated," Hart said. "We are very overt and intentional about aligning ourselves with church objectives."