Zara Marselian is the CEO and co-founder of nonprofit organizations La Maestra Community Health Centers and La Maestra Foundation. Since 1990, La Maestra Community Health Centers has grown into an award-winning Federally Qualified Health Center with more than a dozen locations in inner-city areas of San Diego County, including school-based and mobile clinics and the County’s first mobile mammography coach. Launched with one volunteer physician, La Maestra now has some 550 culturally-competent staff who guide nearly 46,000 patients per year to access healthcare and social services. Patients are low-income and under/uninsured; most are from special populations including immigrants, refugees, survivors of violent crime and those who are homeless and in recovery from addiction. Zara developed the grassroots, innovative and scalable La Maestra Circle of Care™ model, a holistic, solution-based approach to addressing the complex health and wellbeing needs of diverse emerging communities.
IIn her commitment to share innovative, replicable approaches to addressing needs of underserved communities, Zara initiates and participates in many local, national and global collaboratives and co-founded the Circle of Care Nationwide Collaborative, with participants from many sectors in four states and growing. Zara presents at local and national conferences; provides technical assistance through monographs, webinars and consultation for health center grantees and nonprofits nationwide; and often guest-lectures for San Diego and Washington D.C. area universities. She is a passionate expert on the impacts of cultural diversity and social determinants of health on low income working families and special populations including immigrants and refugees; public housing residents; homeless; survivors of violent crime, domestic violence and human trafficking; and those in recovery from substance abuse. Her expertise spans health care; education; cultivating successful partnerships with diverse stakeholders; and developing innovative healthcare and social service delivery models such as: telehealth, peer promotora outreach programs, medical-legal-social services integration, economic empowerment through microlending, social enterprise and unique job training and leadership development models, healing through art, and programs for youth and older adults.
Zara holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Management, and is pursuing a doctorate degree in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership with anticipated completion in 2020. She is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives; and completed the National Association of Community Health Centers’ EXCELL Leadership Program and the Fieldstone Foundation Executive Learning Program. Zara has been actively involved in community organizations and nonprofits for over 30 years, and is a dedicated leader of several boards of directors and coalitions. She is a founding board member of Alliance4Empowerment; advisory board member for North American Management’s National Center for Health in Public Housing and the United States University College of Nursing Advisory Board; and has served in several leadership roles for the Council of Community Clinics including President. Zara has been recognized locally and nationally as an ambitious advocate for the cause of helping the underserved and improving access to culturally competent health and social services for the diverse communities of San Diego. She has received many local awards including the Channel 10 Leadership Award; San Diego County’s Health Heroes Award; the Making a Difference for Women Award and Woman of Accomplishment Award from Soroptimist International of San Diego; Most Admired CEO Award and Women Who Mean Business Award from the San Diego Business Journal; the Community Advocate Hero Award from City Heights Community Development Corporation, and the Social Empowerment Award from Alliance4Empowerment. December 7, 2015 was declared “Zara Marselian Day” in San Diego County by the County Board of Supervisors.In 2004, Zara was one of ten leaders in the nation to receive the Community Health Leaders award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and that same year was honored in a special Statement for the Congressional Record by Congresswoman Susan Davis for her efforts and accomplishments at La Maestra. In 2007, she received The Greenlining Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her vision and leadership in healthcare. In 2014, Zara received the Woman of the Year award from California State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. Under Zara’s leadership, La Maestra Community Health Centers has also received numerous local and national recognition, including the 2012 H. Jack Geiger Award for Excellence in Program Management and the 2015 Sister Cecilia B. Abhold Award for Excellence in Outreach Programs from the National Center for Health in Public Housing.
In 2010, La Maestra Publications released The Soul Speaks, a collection written by Zara of eleven real-life stories told by people who have come from all over the globe, eventually landing in inner-city San Diego. The Soul Speaks builds awareness by exposing readers to what reality is for people with different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs and who survive through oppression, poverty and tragedy, and finally find the will and determination to escape, starting over and thriving in their new community. The book, a 2011 San Diego Book Awards Finalist, is currently utilized as course curriculum in several San Diego universities as well as core literature for cultural diversity training developed by La Maestra for businesses in healthcare and other fields. Transparent People, La Maestra Publications second book launched in 2017, includes a collection of experiences written by Zara as told by people who have risen from a life of addiction into a life of recovery. It is an attempt to obtain a glimpse of what life events led them into their addictions, their lives in that addiction, and what prompted them to emerge from that cycle. Through understanding more in depth from the point of view of someone with an addiction, readers can find clarity, work toward solutions, create hope and have compassion. A third collection of experiences shared by victims of crimes is currently in progress. The Soul Speaks and Transparent People are available for purchase from La Maestra Publications and proceeds benefit La Maestra’s programs that empower underserved communities in San Diego, California.
To find out more or to make a charitable donation please visit https://www.lamaestra.org or call (619) 584-1612. .