An eye specialist is the new head of Duluth-based Essentia Health and its nearly 100 health care facilities in four states.

Besides overseeing Essentia’s integrated healthcare system serving patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho, new CEO David C. Herman plans to see Essentia patients as an ophthalmologist.

“Essentia Health has a long, successful history with strong physician leadership and community partnership,” Herman said in a statement. “I am honored and proud to be here.”

Herman comes to Essentia with more than 20 years of experience in health care leadership roles. He most recently served as president and chief executive officer of Vidant Health, an integrated health system in eastern North Carolina. There he oversaw an organization of eight hospitals, 70 clinics, 12,000 employees and $1.5 billion in net operating revenues.

Essentia Health is even bigger with 12,500 employees, 17 hospitals, 67 clinics, seven long-term care facilities, four independent living facilities and one research institute.

For Herman, an International Falls native, the new CEO position has allowed him to return to his home region.

“Minnesota is our home, and home to our families,” he said. “We are thrilled to return to northern Minnesota.”

Before his time in North Carolina, Herman worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he was a professor of ophthalmology, from 1988 to 2011. He received his medical degree from Mayo Medical School in Rochester and earned a master’s degree in medical management from the University of Texas at Dallas. He completed his residency at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education and a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

“Dr. Herman is a highly qualified and experienced health care executive and physician who will further advance Essentia’s mission of making a healthy difference in people’s lives,” said Richard Blair, Essentia’s board chairman.

Now three weeks into the job, Herman has been getting to know physicians and staff and plans to meet with more employees at Essentia hospitals and clinics in the Duluth, Brainerd and Fargo, N.D., areas.

Former CEO Peter Person is staying on part time as emeritus CEO until June 30. He’ll assist Herman with the transition and work on special projects.