Emily Elizarde Shares How Centene Allows Employees to Bring Their Whole Selves to Work


Emily Elizarde joined Superior HealthPlan’s Compliance department and is now VP of Network Management.

In the following Q&A, Emily shares more about her role, how team members at all levels can be leaders, and how Centene’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) allows team members to bring their whole selves to work.

Q.    Tell us about your background, your career at Centene, and your current role as VP, Network Management, Superior HealthPlan?

A.    I was born and raised by my grandmother in South Texas. I attended the University of Texas in Austin and have lived in the Austin area ever since. For the last 15 years, I have held various roles where my primary focus has been developing organizational capability in the managed care space. My true passion lies in developing the teams I lead and those we work closely with. My tenure with Centene began at Superior HealthPlan seven years ago with Compliance. I subsequently led the Superior Complaints Team and have now spent the last four years with Network Development.

In my current role as VP of Network Management at Superior, I’m involved in the operationalization of our contracts with our provider partners and the fulfillment of our regulatory network obligations, among other network-related functions supporting our organization’s growth goals.

Q.    What is the most meaningful part of your job?

A.    The most meaningful part of my job is leaning into the continual growth and development of our most important asset — our people. I believe that everyone in our organization can lead from where we sit. When we establish trust with those around us, when we communicate effectively, and when we support one another, our organizational capacity becomes unleashed, and the possibilities are endless. By keeping this top of mind, we’ve overcome sizeable barriers and solved for organizational needs in the network space. Part of supporting each other includes acceptance and inclusion, and I enjoy seeing that in action at Centene.

Q.    Who influenced you most during your career and why?

A.    I have been extremely fortunate to have crossed paths with some of the best leaders and mentors. It’s difficult to highlight only one influence, as there have been many.

Professionally, the combined Superior HealthPlan Executive Leadership team has served as an incredible example of adaptability and creativity, all while staying focused on what matters most – our members.

Considering Pride Month, I’d like to share something Holly Munin shared along the way. Holly was a pillar of Superior’s achievement in the managed care space in Texas, and while she recently retired, she always remembered the importance of authenticity in the workplace. I’ll never forget how she reminded me to, “Be you because that is when you are the best.” Every day, I’m continually learning more about myself — both professionally and personally — and this piece of advice has been really important to me over the years.

Mike Diel, Senior Vice President of Network Development in Texas, has also been a significant influence through the behaviors he embodies as a leader. He is a Kansas State Wildcat fan, and I am a UT Longhorn fan — the differences between us could not be greater. That said, as a leader, he affords a high level of trust, respect, and acceptance, and has allowed me the space to continue to hone my craft as a leader, while freely sharing the expertise he has gained through the years.

Q.    How is Centene’s approach to DEI different from other companies?

A.    Centene walks the talk in its approach to DEI. I believe Centene truly embraces the diverse ideas, experiences, and cultures that employees bring to the workplace. I’ve experienced not being able to cover my wife and children through company-offered health benefits in another organization. I feel blessed that this has always been a non-issue at Centene. More importantly, the outcomes of Centene’s approach are such that I can be my whole self in the workplace. Centene deliberately creates a space for open dialogue, which promotes a culture of learning and acceptance. When people feel accepted and valued, Centene is able to execute on its purpose of transforming the community, one person at a time — and we are able to do this together.

Q.    What are your thoughts on the significance of Pride Month?

A.    Pride Month is about acceptance, equality, celebrating the work of LGBTQIA+ people, and raising awareness of issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride Month is a time to honor those who have stood for acceptance. Pride is about being proud of who you are no matter who you love.