Community Partner of the Month: La Maestra Community Health Centers

la-maestraThe La Maestra Community Health Centers provide healthcare, education and social services that help low-income, diverse community members to be healthy, safe and self-sufficient. Since the 1980s, La Maestra has expanded to serve 46,000 people annually in underserved areas of San Diego County. For the past 24 years, LMCHC has provided culturally and linguistically-competent primary care, specialty services including behavioral and mental health, chronic disease management and essential support services to men, women and children in San Diego’s most culturally diverse and lowest income communities.

la-maestra2Services are provided at four medical clinics, seven dental sites, three school-based health centers, and a mobile medical unit. LMCHC’s main health center is located in City Heights, a community that is home to more than 90,000 residents, many of whom are recently settled refugees and immigrants from more than 60 countries with unique health and well-being needs. Additional health center locations include the underserved communities of El Cajon, National City and Lemon Grove, where the majority of patients are also refugees and immigrants in need of affordable, quality health care and social services.

The La Maestra Foundation, which operates as the charitable arm of La Maestra, provides and supports advocacy and community services that improve the overall well-being of low-income, culturally diverse individuals and families in San Diego and guide them along the path to self-sufficiency. Services include job training and placement; microcredit loans; microenterprise assistance; affordable housing assistance; transitional housing and access to nutritious food and clothing.

Zara Marselian , CEO of La Maestra Community Health Centers & La Maestra Foundation

Zara Marselian , CEO of La Maestra Community Health Centers & La Maestra Foundation

Zara Marselian, the CEO of La Maestra Community Health Centers and the La Maestra Foundation, represents the embodiment of La Maestra’s mission. Ms. Marselian has been recognized locally and nationally for her commitment to develop and share La Maestra’s grassroots, innovative and scalable Circle of Care™ model, a holistic approach to addressing the health and wellbeing needs of these emerging communities. Zara participates in many local, national and global initiatives and has formed the Circle of Care Nationwide Collaborative, with participants from many sectors in four states and growing. Her recognition includes the prestigious Community Health Leaders award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Greenlining Institute Lifetime Achievement Award; most recently, December 8, 2015 was declared “Zara Marselian Day” in the City of San Diego.

Zara is a passionate advocate and expert on the impacts of cultural diversity and social determinants of health on low income working families and people with unique needs, including immigrants and refugees; public housing residents; people who are homeless or in recovery from substance use; victims of violent crime, domestic violence and human trafficking; women, youth and older adults. Her expertise spans health care; education; cultivating successful partnerships with diverse stakeholders; and developing innovative healthcare and social service delivery models. These models include medical-legal-social services integration; telehealth; peer promotora outreach programs; economic empowerment through microlending, social enterprise and unique job training models; healing through art; and programs that engage youth and older adults.

img_1705eeZara enjoys spending time with her family, sewing and painting, cooking recipes passed down through generations, and traveling. She continuously pursues education and professional development opportunities to strengthen her lifelong vocation of teaching and helping others, which began in her teenage years when she was an aide in English as a Second Language program for adults. Zara is one of few community health center leaders in the nation to become a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. She has a Bachelor in Psychology from San Diego State University, a Master of Arts in Organizational Development from University of Phoenix in San Diego, and recently began pursuing her doctorate in Nonprofit Leadership at the University Of San Diego.