Megan Barajas is HASC’s newest regional vice president, covering Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The latter, trivia buffs know, is the largest county in the contiguous United States, almost the size of West Virginia.
Barajas is a local, having graduated from high school in Moreno Valley, just east of Riverside. Her path to HASC regional vice president has been unique — she joined the association in 2015 and has served as the area’s regional assistant for six years.
In an audio podcast supplement to this text interview, Barajas shares more details about her career path, passions, motivation and plans for the future.
This week’s interview is part of In the Spotlight — a HASC series profiling people connected to the association pursuing innovative, impactful work in their communities.
You’re a local, having grown up in and graduated from high school in the Inland Empire. Tell us what you know and enjoy about the area.
My favorite thing about the Inland Empire is the expansive geography with many different kinds of terrain: mountains, deserts, lakes, farms, vineyards. There’s everything except the ocean (which is still only a short drive away).
We also have some very rich history — my favorite landmark is the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside. I’m a big fan of luxurious day spas; there are several in the Inland Empire that I enjoy.
Also, salsa dancing (Latin dancing in general) is my favorite hobby. I met my husband at a salsa dancing club in Riverside. We’ve been married for four and a half years and have a 3-year-old daughter. I also have a 10-year-old son.
The Inland Empire has seen high hospitalization and low vaccination rates over the past year and a half. How does an advocate for cooperation and consensus navigate this landscape?
As an advocate for HASC members, my priority is to be of value in any way that I can. Advocating for cooperation and consensus has not been easy or 100 percent achievable with the varying complexities across the landscape. So, my ultimate goal has been making sure that different entities understand the implications of decisions and actions that negatively affect our members, as well as the magnitude of unintended consequences on the health care delivery system.
You’ve played a leading role coordinating hospitals’ response to COVID-19 with state public health officials and agencies. What have you learned?
I’ve learned that providing opportunities for open dialogue is a key to coordinating a multidisciplinary team of agencies and health care delivery professionals during the pandemic. Awareness across all sectors is absolutely essential — understanding what is working well, what is not working well, how to access resources, and when an all-hands-on-deck approach may be needed.
I’ve also learned that bringing the right people to the table to engage in that dialogue makes discussions richer and more effective. I am very proud of the camaraderie we have been able to achieve between all our members and county and state health partners.
You’re HASC’s newest regional vice president — although you’ve worked in the Riverside office for more than six years. What’s surprised you since you’ve taken on the new role?
I have always been behind the scenes in the IE office, but now that I’m involved in many more discussions and meetings, it has become clearer how complex and misunderstood this industry is.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I recently completed my final course in the Master of Public Administration program at Brandman University. I’m considering pursuing my doctorate but plan to take a substantial break from school before returning!
Listen to the podcast here.