Joel Martinez Shares the Importance of Allyship


Joel Martinez headshot

During Pride Month, Centene is shining the spotlight on its diverse employees. Joel Martinez joined WellCare in 2016 as a Community Advocate. He is also a member of Centene’s Employee Inclusion Group (EIG) cPRIDE.

In the following Q&A, Joel discusses his role identifying and addressing social determinants of health for members, his involvement with cPRIDE, and the importance of allyship.

Q.    Tell us about your background, your career at Centene, and your current role as Community Advocate with WellCare.

A.    I am the American-born son of parents who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in the 1980s, fleeing a dictatorship for a better life. In the last five years with Centene/WellCare of New Jersey, I’ve helped lead our business unit’s Social Determinants of Health program. As a Community Advocate, my primary focus is researching and identifying socio-economic factors that negatively impact our members’ health. Equipped with that data, I’ve developed outcome-based grant programs and initiatives that help break down those barriers to health for our members and the community in general. Critical to that formula is the strong relationships formed with many key stakeholders throughout the state who support our members — community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, foundations, and providers. 

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

A.    It’s knowing my emails, deciphering of data spreadsheets, and stakeholder coalition-building is helping our members get food on the table, find assistance to pay their rent, and give caregivers the respite they so desperately need. Seeing those successful outcomes for our members keeps me going.

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

A.    There are countless individuals who have been an inspiration and helped me mature in my professional work. One person whose words I value is my Plan President John Kirchner. He offers great advice. I look up to him for his career trajectory and hope I can emulate a similar path. 

Q.    How is Centene’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) different from other companies?

A.    Centene is an agile, flexible, and receptive organization, and it has been most notable through our DEI initiative. I am able to have a hand in crafting programming and initiatives through both our business unit’s DEI Council and being part of a dynamic team at cPRIDE. Centene’s DEI Office listens to what employees are looking for, they dig through the uncomfortable topics, and are committed to the long-term. We are constantly faced with raw moments in our country, and Centene is at the forefront during these challenging times.

Q.    Tell us about why you became involved with cPRIDE?

A.    I want to have a role in shaping a more equitable and positive work experience for our employees, while also ensuring Centene as a company is doing its part to be a corporate ally. I also want to continue to learn about our community and make sure I challenge myself and my preconceived notions of what it is to be LGBTQIA+. Working alongside so many great colleagues has helped me bring my true authentic self to work, and I respect and cheer for each one.

Q.    What is the importance of allyship to you, and how can employees be better allies?

A.    Allyship is meant to be mutually beneficial as the definition implies. Being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community means you’re willing to challenge what you may have grown up thinking or knowing and learn from the real-life experiences of those in the community and commit to learning about social and health issues that the community faces. To form a better allyship, ask the questions you want answered — you’ll often end up realizing we all have a core commonality and reason to defend and embrace one another as true allies. We want to strengthen the safe space created for LGBTQIA+ employees and to do that, we need to demonstrate that openness and willingness to learn and share stories and experiences.  

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

A.    Pride Month is a reminder of the journey that was blazed by many icons in our community and their allies willing to fight for our voices and for equality. There’s much more work to do. We’ve come far as a society, and we must move forward and not flirt with the echoes of the past. Pride Month is only the kick-off to the 365 days that we must really work for equal rights for all humans in this country and world. Not understanding a topic or community is not enough reason to punish or exclude groups through policy and/or laws. We must continue to educate and highlight the work and experiences of marginalized communities so we can continue to celebrate Pride Month every year and be happy when progress is made.