From C-Suite to Classroom: Leticia Flores

Photo of Leticia Flores

Leticia Flores holds several titles: CPA, CFO, mom, Mimi – the latter reserved only for her granddaughter, Maddie. For the past two years, she’s also held one more: student. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be back in school, but I decided I needed to take this challenge for me,” Flores said. After more than three decades as an accounting and finance professional, Flores decided to pursue her MPH in Healthcare Management at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health.

Flores is part of the inaugural cohort of the executive-style program in El Paso, and she and her peers will be the first to graduate this May. She has spent a large part of her career at University Medical Center (UMC) of El Paso, which is the region’s only not-for-profit, community-owned hospital and is home to the only Level 1 trauma center in a 280-mile radius. It is one of the busiest hospitals in the region, with more than 15,000 inpatient visits and more than 970,000 outpatient visits reported in 2022. Their Emergency Department alone serves more than 60,000 patients every year.  

Flores started at UMC as an assistant controller, and over the course of 20 years, moved up to her current role as chief financial officer. She has led the organization through the changes and financial challenges that come with expanding services for a growing population. “Back then, it was a smaller organization, probably about $700,000 in operating revenue. That number is now over a billion dollars,” Flores said. At one point in her career, she served as corporate controller for both UMC and the El Paso Children’s Hospital, which she helped lead out of bankruptcy. Currently, she oversees financial operations of one acute care hospital, a physician group and two foundations.  

As CFO, she recently started asking herself a critical question – what else is out there? To find the answer, she decided to go back to school. “My kids were in college themselves, so we were all going to school at the same time,” Flores said, noting that her three oldest children graduated from college during her first year in the MPH in Healthcare Management program. “My husband is the backbone of our family,” she added, “keeping us safe, fed and supported – he is the shoulder we all lean on.”

With a strong family support system in place, Flores set out to expand her professional network through opportunities in the program. “We had a presentation from a gentleman who runs the correctional center in Galveston,” she said, recalling one example of how she’s bridged the gap between her coursework and her professional life. “I asked my professor if he could introduce us because we also serve El Paso County’s correctional facilities. We were able to connect and do some analyses of our areas and how we’re serving our respective communities.”   

The connections with her cohort have been invaluable as well. “We understand how to leverage each other’s strengths,” Flores shared. “Each cohort member has different approaches to research, to the sharing of ideas, and even to how they do things in their organization.” Working closely with other professionals that bring fresh perspectives has renewed her enthusiasm for the field of healthcare.

For her practicum, Flores is working with a young entrepreneur with a startup in its second year of business. “I'm guiding her through her healthcare startup on the finance side and it’s been eye opening watching her launch her business. It’s exciting working with somebody who really wants to learn and apply themselves,” Flores added. “I think we're a perfect match.”

With its focus on integrating leading managerial functions with public health concepts, the MPH in Healthcare Management was a great match for her as well. “As I’m going through this program, I’m learning new skills and at the same time I’m wondering how I can apply them as the CFO for this organization,” she said. “What drew me to the program was being able to connect the operations piece to working with and providing services to underserved populations. I've been here 21 years, but this program has helped me approach my path with more confidence. It’s shown me I can do more.”

This is a lesson that she has taken to heart. “I’d like my kids to know that the sky’s the limit,” she said. “Life is about learning lessons one day at a time, you just have to be patient.”

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