Maritza Lara serves as the Executive Director at the Health Improvement Partnership (HIP) of Santa Cruz County. In this capacity, she shapes the overall strategy for the organization to ensure that it operates in alignment with HIP’s values of fairness, respect, and equity for all.
Having learned and navigated the healthcare system as an immigrant, Maritza has the lived experience of how important it is to act as a change agent and catalyst to help healthcare organizations deliver on the promise of accessible, equitable, high quality, human-centered, and whole-person health care for all - and especially for those who are most vulnerable. Since 2017, Maritza has managed and championed programs that support community health centers’ operations and clinical services across Santa Cruz, Merced, and Monterey counties in California. Her work includes primary care quality improvement initiatives, workforce development programs, identifying and addressing adverse childhood experiences, and convening and coordinating the right stakeholders and partners to improve population health strategies and healthcare service delivery.
During the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maritza led HIP’s COVID-19 work. She partnered with Santa Cruz County’s Health Services Agency and the larger healthcare ecosystem to develop solutions to address common pandemic challenges, share expertise, and communicate best practices, especially with respect to racial and health equity. The American Nurses Foundation and the United HealthGroup recognized Maritza’s COVID-19 work by awarding her the 2021 Jeannine Rivet National Leadership Award.
Before joining HIP, Maritza served as a Sacramento County Adult and Aging Commissioner and as the Workshop and Leadership Development Coordinator with Partners in Transforming Community Health at UC Davis. Maritza holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Utah and a Master’s in Health-Care Leadership from UC Davis. She is currently a Doctor of Public Health candidate at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Her research at LSHTM focuses on integrating patients’ voices within participatory healthcare and human services spaces in the United States. She is a member of the LSHTM’s Dialogue, Evidence, Participation, and Translation for Health (DEPTH) Centre, a research team that seeks to increase equity and amplify less-heard voices in community dialogues. Maritza also serves as a Board of Directors member at Salud Para La Gente, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Watsonville, California.
Among Maritza’s obsessions is establishing structures that support healthcare organizations to DO what patients say must happen to deliver on the promise of community centered services.