Inspiring the next generation of Latino leaders in healthcare
How family, support, and mentorship shaped the trajectory of my career
By Monica Vargas-Mahar, FACHE
With Hispanic Heritage Month underway, I am pleased to have the opportunity to share my unique perspective on how we, as Latino leaders, can mentor, support, and inspire future generations in healthcare.
I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, a city that holds my heart given its resilience and true sense of community. My parents were raised between Ciudad Juárez, Guadalajara, Mexico, and El Paso. My family, including my two sisters, is a very close-knit group and extremely supportive. That unwavering support allowed me the confidence and opportunity to establish my own goals and career path.
I knew from an early age that I wanted a career in healthcare. I remember it so clearly. A family friend had invited me to spend the day shadowing him at work. At the time, he was serving as the CEO of the county hospital in El Paso. I immediately fell in love with the mission, community impact, and ability to help people. I said to myself: this is what I want to do when I grow up. I giggle a little bit looking back because it was a big statement for a 20-year-old, but it has proven to be true.
I obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Human Resources Management from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and then pursued a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree from Trinity University in San Antonio. I knew I wanted to be on the business side of healthcare and pursuing this variety of degrees allowed me to do so.
My path in healthcare has been shaped by the influential mentors that I’ve been fortunate to meet along the way. My mentors, both women and men, represented many cultures and introduced me to their unique experiences and perspectives which inspired me every day. They gave me opportunities and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I owe my success to the champions around me. It has been a lot of hard work but having those mentors helped guide me in the right direction and gave me the tools I needed to be successful.
My career at Tenet spans roughly 20 years and counting. On my second day, I was in new hire orientation at Sierra Providence Health Network, now The Hospitals of Providence in El Paso, when the Twin Towers were struck on 9/11. I’ll never forget the people who were with me that day, their words, their compassion, and their resolve.
I then spent two decades supporting different parts of El Paso through Tenet’s network. I got to know each hospital very well and was afforded many opportunities to lead, doing work that I loved for people that I loved.
I recently moved to Tucson, Arizona to serve as Market CEO of the Carondelet Health Network. The community here has been warm and welcoming, similar to my other experiences throughout my journey. I am honored to be one of a few Hispanic women leaders in Tucson’s healthcare space.
There is one thing I would say to my fellow colleagues across our company, which is that we are all part of this incredible organization. Hispanic women and men have been given opportunities to lead and to thrive, and it’s very special to be a part of that. We have supportive role models at the helm who understand the value we bring to the table. With diversity of thought and experience, we can contribute to our communities in a very positive way and do better for those we serve.
As Hispanic leaders, we need to use our voices. We need to continue to make sure our workforce, our boards, and our broader leadership teams reflect the cultures of the communities we serve. I think we do a great job on that front, and I am deeply committed to continuing that legacy.
Monica C. Vargas-Mahar, FACHE, MHA, is the Market Chief Executive Officer for the Carondelet Health Network in Tucson, Arizona. She has worked for Tenet for more than 20 years, including many years in El Paso serving at The Hospitals of Providence and its predecessor organization. Ms. Vargas-Mahar is also the President and Board Chair of The National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives (NALHE) and serves on multiple boards and councils.