Adventist Healthcare: A View from the Top

In this exclusive interview, Don Jernigan, the man at the helm of the largest Protestant not-for-profit healthcare system in the United States, talks about his soon-to-be-published book, why Adventist Health System keeps expanding, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and the goal of showing “uncommon compassion” for every patient.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

this is such an interesting interview…don jernigan sounds like he has thought a great deal on how to combine our adventist mission with technical excellence…

I really enjoyed reading this superb and informative interview.


One question the interviewer failed to ask is, “What is your yearly salary, including retirement benefits?”

Another question: How did it happen that your system was sued by the federal government for overcharges and fraudulent practices?"


Thanks, aphanson.

I had the same query, particularly since the September/October Adventist Today cover story asked the identical question.

Two-and-a-half years ago, though, in his blog post, “Million-Dollar Salaries in Adventist Healthcare,” T. Joe Willey wrote the following:

In a denomination that has long stressed dedication and sacrificial wages, there are at least 52 highly paid Adventist hospital executives receiving annual “total compensation” ranging from $815,000 to $5,079,386. The reportable W-2 earnings in the group averaged $729,434 per individual in 2010. With benefits, retirement, and other perks, this lifted individual executives’ “total compensation” along with wages to an estimated average of $1,346,679 in the same year, according to data obtained from the IRS 990 reports. There are many more executives on the way up from $196,500 to $815,000.

As a point of reference, the annual wage of former General Conference (GC) President Jan Paulsen in 2008 was $87,008. If you are looking for a career that provides an opportunity to stack up worldly wealth and help coordinate the healing ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, just about any administrative job in the Adventist healthcare system is your best option.



According to the following source, his salary in 2011 was $1,984,137.

That’s way out of line and inexcusable in an Adventist institution. What’s wrong, can’t he live on a couple hundred thousand a year? The president of the USA only gets $400,000 a year.


This mega business is doomed. Unsustainable.

They try to call it “healthcare” and there are many good people within the system, but it is a big business at the end of the day. And everybody at the top wants to live like a fat cat. And the poor old guy with chest pains or the lady with a lump in her chest have no say…

The individual mandate is unconstitutional. I am disappointed that Jernigan supported it. It is an unprecedented overreach by the federal government. It forced younger healthy people to support Obamacare. What ends up being supported primarily is: The Fat Cats. Then those people who really give themselves a fast track to accident, illness and disease through alcohol, tobacco, drugs and gluttony must be taken care of. Then of course, society is forced to buy birth control for everybody else and if somebody ends up possibly being “punished with a baby”, we all have to pay to that to get taken care of too.

It is a crying shame that the richest nation the world has ever known is in such dire financial straits.

I wonder what % of Adventi$t Healthcare’$ profit$ come from their elective abortion bu$ine$$.

Praise the Lord for Christian-based health sharing. It gets us excused from Obamacare, we don’t have to pay for all the procedures that go against Biblical principles, it keep us in touch with other believers.

And it is very reasonable. Woo hooo!!

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I think the individual mandate was found to be constitutional by a very conservative Supreme Court. According to your standards, I guess anybody whose lifestyle doesn’t measure up should be left out on the street to die? That’s not what Jesus would have done.


You are absolutely right. Bull’s eye again.

Why can’t the church hire ministers and pastors, the ordained type, to manage our health institutions as they did with Harris Pine Mills, once “the biggest manufacturer of unfinished furniture in America,” a $5,000,000 gift to the SDA church in 1951 and which filed for bankruptcy in 1987 for mismanagement after pouring “more than $50 million into Adventist education institutions” and helping “more than 15,000 students finance their education” along the way. Then we can sing “Kumbaya” praises to the Lord for His goodness.


What most people DO NOT know is how years ago Florida Hospital and the Florida Conference worked hand in glove.
Florida Hospital had a great reputation.
Elder Dombrosky, in charge of Florida Conference Community Services had a whole FLEET of health screening vans with a whole host of health screeners manning them through out the State. It was huge what they did in screening for hypertension, diabetes, and some other issues. In addition, local churches were presenting Health Education Programs.
Both The Seventh day Adventist Church and Florida Hospital names were used in advertising promotion.
They helped 1000s of persons a year.
Elder Dombrosky had such a wonderful program that Every Year when Walt Disney World would present Awards to organizations, Elder Dombrosky was a recipient of a very large donation every year for the SDA Florida Conference.

Elder Dombrosky was a great visionary. It is too bad that the idea was not promoted by the North American Division.
For years the Ga-Cumberland Conference had a health screening van. It was manned for several years by the Zieglers, both RN’s. He was a retired Science teacher from Southern. I knew them at Madison College when he taught there. And remained friends when moved to Southern. After they retired from the Health Van, I took it over and managed it for about 5 years when I lived at Laurelbrook for the Conference.


I can’t help it. Reading this dialog remains me of the King of Babylon’s boast: “Is this not this great Babylon I have built…” I wonder what comes next…“Fallen fallen is Babylon?”


Truth of the matter is a good number of top and mid-level executives in our Adventist health institutions formerly served in a pastoral capacity. Whether this kind of movement from parish to hospital is better for the individuals concerned and has resulted in a more effective means of tending the flock is debatable.

Speaking of Harris Pine Mills, one of its contributions to our Adventist global mission was the timely technical support it provided our Mountain View College in the Philippines in connection with the school’s sawmill industry resulting in saving the latter from countless financial crises.

As far as extending Jesus’ healing ministry is concerned, I’m curious what our flourishing Adventist health systems are doing and what percent of their annual operating budget is committed to supporting our struggling mission hospitals abroad?


What bothers me is not the percentage of profit from elective abortion but rather the fact that the killing of innocent unborn children is done with the blessing of the General Conference.

The Adventist Health System follows the GC “Guidelines on Abortion,” a document created by human beings and designed to justify what is forbidden by the Sixth Commandment found in Exodus 20.

We used to condemn the Catholic Church for replacing the Word of God with human tradition. Now we Adventist have done the same with impunity. We need to repent of this great evil before it is too late!


There is no biblical guidance that suggests that abortion violates the sixth commandment. That is the problem. You are relying on a different human tradition, to arrive at that conclusion. Abortion is not mentioned in the bible and the closest analogy, accidentally causing a miscarriage, is treated like a property crime.