Mon­ica Var­gas-Ma­har

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL FEATURE - —Paul Barr

A“I think it’s im­por­tant to have a good time at work.”

ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion with Pete Duarte, a neigh­bor who hap­pened to be CEO of a lo­cal hospi­tal, put then-col­lege stu­dent Mon­ica Var­gas-Ma­har on track to work as a hospi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tor with as­pi­ra­tions to be a CEO her­self. Var­gas-Ma­har says she was in­trigued by Duarte’s sug­ges­tion that she con­sider health­care as a ca­reer, and even­tu­ally shad­owed the CEO of what is now Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter of El Paso (Texas) be­fore de­cid­ing, “OK, this is where I can see my call­ing,” she says.

That first step into health­care com­bined with other for­tu­nate turns has al­lowed Var­gas-Ma­har to move quickly through the ranks, hav­ing been named chief oper­at­ing of­fi­cer of a 110-bed hospi­tal at the age of 34 and COO of a 359-bed hospi­tal at the age of 38, the job she cur­rently holds at Prov­i­dence Memo­rial Hospi­tal, El Paso, owned by Tenet Health­care Corp.

Cur­rent and for­mer col­leagues speak highly of Var­gasMa­har, cit­ing her man­age­ment style, which com­bines op­er­a­tional pre­ci­sion with per­sonal warmth. “She’s an ab­so­lute joy to work with,” says Sally Hurt, CEO of Sierra Prov­i­dence East Med­i­cal Cen­ter in El Paso, where Var­gas-Ma­har first worked as COO. She has great prob­lem-solv­ing skills and en­cour­ages the same from her col­leagues, Hurt says. “Mon­ica is go­ing to hold you ac­count­able, but at the same time, she’s not go­ing to be un­rea­son­able, and she’s will­ing to lis­ten,” Hurt says.

Var­gas-Ma­har, who is mar­ried and has two dogs, says the more an­a­lyt­i­cal side of the job comes more nat­u­rally and she’s had to work more on de­vel­op­ing her per­sonal con­nec­tions, some­thing that Hurt helped her learn. Var­gas-Ma­har was both the in­sti­ga­tor and re­cip­i­ent of some friendly pranks. She once toi­let-pa­pered a col­league’s of­fice who had a birthday, while some­body hid her phone be­hind a ceil­ing tile in re­sponse to a prank she played, she says. “I think it’s im­por­tant to have a good time at work,” she says. She says she got an­other lucky break when it was time to ap­ply for res­i­den­cies in grad­u­ate school. Be­cause so many of her class­mates were ap­ply­ing to meet with Dou­glas Hawthorne, CEO of Texas Health Re­sources, about a po­ten­tial res­i­dency po­si­tion, Var­gasMa­har says she didn’t want to waste a bid and didn’t try for a slot. But when she got home the day Hawthorne was in­ter­view­ing, she got a call ask­ing her to meet with him at his re­quest, she says. Hawthorne, who got CVs on all the students, had picked her name out of the stack on his own, she says. She ended up get­ting a res­i­dency, a fel­low­ship and her first job with THR. “Doug Hawthorne is some­one I hold spe­cial in my heart,” Var­gas-Ma­har says.

She also says she owes a lot to a for­mer Tenet ex­ec­u­tive, Thomas Casa­day, and to Tenet it­self, which has given her op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­vance­ment, such as by let­ting her work on the de­vel­op­ment of a green­field hospi­tal—Sierra Prov­i­dence East Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

38, chief oper­at­ing of­fi­cer, Prov­i­dence Memo­rial Hospi­tal, El Paso, Texas

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.