All in the Family: Founder’s Grandson Among First Santa Cruz Patients

Feature Story
Black and white photo of Henry J. Kaiser, his son Henry Kaiser Jr. and baby Henry Kaiser III.

Three generations: Henry J. Kaiser holding his grandson Henry Kaiser, III, seated next to Henry Kaiser, Jr. 1953

When Kaiser Permanente opened the doors on its new medical offices in Scotts Valley, California earlier this week, one of the first patients to visit was Henry J. Kaiser III, grandson of the organization’s founder.

“My grandfather and Dr. Sidney Garfield would be happy beyond their wildest dreams that their health care system has expanded like this,” said Kaiser.

Kaiser Permanente was founded more than 70 years ago by his grandfather, Henry J. Kaiser, and Sidney Garfield, MD.

“Dr. Garfield was a regular visitor to my home when I was growing up,” Kaiser recalled. “We had long discussions and he explained to me how the original Kaiser Permanente health care system worked.”

On January 3, Kaiser Permanente opened three new medical offices in Santa Cruz County: in Scotts Valley, downtown Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Coverage for new members started on January 1. Local hospital services and inpatient care, including labor and delivery, are being provided by Watsonville Community Hospital and at nearby Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Santa Clara and San Jose.

Most of the doctors and staff live in Santa Cruz County, so they know the community well. Not only has their commute been significantly shortened, but so has the drive time for existing Santa Cruz County Kaiser Permanente members, who can now access Kaiser Permanente’s high quality, affordable health care close to home.

Five years ago, the younger Kaiser moved to Santa Cruz County from his longtime hometown-birthplace of Oakland. Like many of the 5,800 Kaiser Permanente members living in the area, he has been anticipating the health care system’s arrival.

“Ever since Kaiser Permanente sponsored the arena for the D-League Santa Cruz Warrior basketball team, I’ve been hoping,” he said.

Henry Kaiser III chats with two women at a new medical offices

Henry Kaiser III, drops by the new Kaiser Permanente Scotts Valley Medical Offices, with Irene Chavez and Niraj Singh, January 2017.

Kaiser had one of the first appointments with Scotts Valley physician Tyler Hensel, MD. “I’ve been a Kaiser Permanente member my entire life and Dr. Hensel is my sixth Kaiser Permanente physician in 64 years,” he said.

He’ll be seeing the physician again before too long; he’ll need a checkup before his 12th deployment to Antarctica as a research diver in the U.S. Antarctic Program. Kaiser works as a scientific diver beneath the 20-foot thick ice of the Ross Sea. He’s worked with the National Science Foundation studying seals and their life beneath the Antarctic ice.

In addition, Kaiser is a musician who’s recorded more 280 albums, and is part of director Werner Herzog’s Academy-Award-nominated film “Encounters at the End of the World,” which studies people and places in Antarctica.

“It’s really wonderful and meaningful that on our first day of operation in Santa Cruz County, the grandson of our founder is one of our first patients,” said Calvin Gordon, MD, physician lead for the Kaiser Permanente Santa Cruz County expansion.

For more information about Kaiser Permanente in Santa Cruz County, visit