Zara Marselian is the CEO and co-founder of La Maestra Community Health Centers and La Maestra Foundation. A native San Diegan, she founded La Maestra to provide healthcare and social services to help the underserved, immigrant and refugee residents in theinner-city San Diego community of City Heights to become healthy and self-sufficient. Since 1990, La Maestra has grown into a nationally-recognized organization with 400 staff serving over 45,000 patients annually,with locations in City Heights, El Cajon, National City and Lemon Grove and services across San Diego County.
Zara holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Management and has been actively involved in community organizations and other non-profits for over 25 years. Zara is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives; graduate of the National Association of Community Health Centers EXCELL Leadership Program and the Fieldstone Foundation Executive Learning Program; a dedicated member of several Boards of Directors, and former President of the Council of Community Clinics.
In her commitment to share innovative, replicable approaches to addressing needs of underserved communities, Zara initiates and participates in many local, national and global collaboratives. She enthusiastically presents at local and national conferences; provides technical assistance through monographs, webinars and consultation for health center grantees and nonprofits nationwide; and guest-lecturesat San Diego universities. Her expertise includes cultural diversity and social determinants of health and their impacts on low‑income,immigrant/refugee, public housing residents, women and older adults; innovative healthcare and social service delivery models such as telehealth and peer promotora programs; constructing a green health center; diversifying funding streams for community health centers; developing partnerships with community-based organizations; promoting healing through art; economic empowerment through peer microlending and social enterprise; and medical-legal-social services integration.
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 the “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 many more. 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, she received the Woman of the Year award from California State Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez.
In 2010, La Maestra Publications released The Soul Speaks, a collection written by Zara of eleven real-life storiestold 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 is being 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. Two additional books are currently in progress.