Hispanic heritage spotlight: 6 thoughts on leadership from healthcare execs

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In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Becker's Hospital Review asked Hispanic leaders in the healthcare industry to share their insights on leadership.

Here are six healthcare leaders who offer words of celebration for their heritage and what it means to be a Hispanic healthcare leader:

Nancy Batista-Rodriguez. CEO of Baptist Outpatient Services of Baptist Health South Florida (Coral Gables): As the daughter of Cuban immigrants, the values of hard work and education have been instilled in me from a young age, shaping me as a person and as a leader. As a leader, I try to channel my parents' sacrifice by believing in others and investing in their success, just as my parents and other mentors have done for me. Healthcare allows me to do that by making a profound difference in the lives of others when they need it most. How we make that impact depends on effective leadership strategies that start with people. Fostering a value-driven organizational culture, resourceful employees who complement your strengths and building open collaborative relationships with your colleagues help maximize our work and purpose. If there's anything I've learned from my personal journey, it's that anything is possible with hard work and determination. You have to be passionate about what you do and inspire others to be their best.

Ruben Castro. COO of Las Palmas Medical Center (El Paso, Texas): I have always been inspired by those around me, and it is with immense pride that I may inspire others to pursue leadership roles in the future. I would not be where I am today if it had not been for my parents and their demonstration of perseverance and pride in who they are. We immigrated from Mexico and their expectations of me and my seven siblings were nothing short of high. They believed that with hard work, integrity and pride in the path we have chosen, we would all have a future. Because El Paso is a predominately Hispanic community, it is important that we as Hispanic leaders, model the way for our aspiring community members and show them anything is possible. With the support of my wife, my parents, my mentors, and a strong determination to make a difference in the communities I have served, I will continue to make a positive impact on healthcare and encourage others to follow suit.

Frank Hurtarte. Senior vice president of human resources at Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente (Southern California and Hawaii Markets): With more than 20 years of experience as a human resources executive and strategic partner, I am proud to be one of the most senior Latinx leaders in the Southern California Market. I joined Kaiser Permanente in 1997 and progressively moved into leadership roles in Northern California, the Northwest Region and Southern California. I’m currently serving as the SVP of human resources for the Southern California and Hawaii Markets, where we employ over 74,000 employees of all diverse backgrounds. One reason I have stayed with Kaiser Permanente for 20 years is our mission and commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity. At Kaiser Permanente, diversity is in our DNA and it is important that we have a workforce reflective of the communities we serve, from the front lines to the C-suite, as it builds trust and makes Kaiser Permanente a better place to receive care, a better partner in the community, and a better place to work. Our organization is committed to diversity and as I look around Kaiser Permanente, our workforce reflects the beauty of race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, individuals with disabilities, sexual orientation, military experience and so many other representations all working towards our shared mission of providing high-quality, affordable health care and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve.

As a minority leader at Kaiser Permanente and part of the Latinx community, I believe it’s crucial to live by your core leadership values. As I think about my core leadership values that have guided me along my journey, the first is to be humble. We all started somewhere in our professional career and staying humble keeps you grounded. No matter where you sit in the organization you can be humble enough to learn from others, ask questions, ask for help and leverage your team for the best possible outcomes. Secondly, it’s important to lead with transparency. Being transparent eliminates the unknowns and fosters a culture of trust, psychological safety, and creates a safe environment for others to speak up and voice their opinions. Our job as leaders is not to manage but to create an environment that empowers our teams to make key decisions. The third reason is to lead with empathy & gratitude. Empathy enables one to understand another person’s experience, perspective and feelings while allowing you to give grace to others when a mistake happens. Gratitude complements empathy — you are never too busy as a leader to slow down and show that you care about your team. Lastly, is to be a courageous leader. I believe being courageous is the ability to be authentic and stay true to yourself. Courageous is about taking calculated risks and accepting if you fail. There is no playbook or tool kit to being a good leader, but it’s important to determine the core values that you will lead by and help guide you on your journey.

Aurelio Fernandez, III. President and CEO of Memorial Healthcare System (Hollywood, Fla.): Growing up, I had incredible mentors who nurtured my talents and celebrated my heritage in an inspiring manner that always reminded me who I am and where I come from. Our background and culture are part of who we are as leaders, along with all the lessons we learn in life that shape our thinking and actions. Taking the time to celebrate who we are and reflect on the impact we make in this world helps us to pave the way for future generations.

Bernie Fernandez, MD. CEO of Baptist Health Medical Group, Baptist Health South Florida (Coral Gables): Being born in Havana, Cuba, my Hispanic heritage is central to who I am. Though no two stories are exactly alike, Hispanics of all backgrounds share a special journey bonded by an unwavering determination to overcome obstacles and create a better future for themselves and others, which uniquely aligns with my professional journey in healthcare. As a leader for hundreds of physicians, I aspire to apply the determination and resilience I have gained in my personal life to my professional one. Like my culture, healthcare has provided me with a family always determined to improve lives. I am proud to call myself both Hispanic and a leader in healthcare and feel privileged that many of my personal values from my heritage — including family, unity and selflessness — are embodied in my work every day thanks to an equally committed team of leaders and colleagues. I am grateful to work in an organization that doesn't just recognize diversity but celebrates it.

Monica Vargas-Mahar. Market CEO of Carondelet Health Network (Tucson, Ariz.): I’m incredibly proud to serve as a healthcare leader and to represent the Hispanic community. It has been a privilege to give back to my community and to help improve health access and outcomes for underserved populations. Our future is bright and I’m excited to see so many young careerists considering giving back to their communities and pursuing a career in healthcare. We need to continue to encourage this new generation and support them in their journey as did those who supported me.

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