Deputy Director & Health Strategist

Maritza Lara serves as Population Health Director at the Health Improvement Partnership (HIP) of Santa Cruz County. In this capacity, she manages and oversees programs that support community health centers operations and clinical services across health care entities. Maritza’s program portfolio includes quality improvement initiatives, workforce development programs, and the identification of and response to adverse childhood experiences in clinical settings. As HIP’s COVID-19 response lead, Maritza also partners with Santa Cruz County’s Health Services Agency and the larger healthcare ecosystem to develop solutions that address common pandemic challenges, share expertise, and communicate best practices, especially as these relate to racial and health equity.


Maritza combines human-centered design, quality improvement, Lean Six Sigma methods, and racial equity screening to build and implement health programs that promote lasting population health outcomes and prioritize stakeholder engagement. 


Maritza holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Utah and a Master’s in Health-Care Leadership from UC Davis. 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. 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 patient's 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 accessible, quality, human-centered, whole person health care.