Lily Ren Shares Importance of Recognizing Rich Cultural Diversity During AAPI Heritage Month

Transforming Communities


Lily Ren headshot.

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Centene is shining the spotlight on AAPI employees and leaders making a difference.

Lily Ren joined Centene in 2016 as director of Clinical Programs and is now Staff Vice President of corporate Population Health and Clinical Operations. A registered nurse, Lily also has a background in healthcare informatics. Learn more in the Q&A below as Lily discusses her role, the power of data to address social determinants of health, and the importance of recognizing nurses and the rich cultural diversity of our communities.

Q. Tell us about your background, your career at Centene, and your current role as Staff Vice President of Population Health and Clinical Operations?

A. I was a registered nurse at a local hospital and decided to obtain a Master of Healthcare Informatics to expand my interests in data and technology. From there, I implemented electronic medical records at one of the largest health systems in St. Louis, Missouri. Centene’s mission and vision inspired me and for the past six years, I have supported our Population Health strategies in a variety of capacities. With insightful analytics and the power of data, we are helping deliver tailored care to people and communities by identifying their most pressing needs and quite often, these needs are associated with social determinants of health. Remaining focused on the needs of our members, I lead teams to develop and implement programs that improve their holistic health. For example, our flagship MemberConnections Community Health Workers programs promote health equity by addressing social determinants of health barriers.  

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

A. I feel fortunate to work with teams who have opportunities to make direct impacts on our members’ lives. It’s most meaningful when we see improved health outcomes through our data-driven Population Health programs. For example, through our predictive model known as NEST (neighborhood, environment, and social traits), we can proactively address social risks and barriers and significantly improve our members’ access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Q. May 6-12 is Nurses Week. How does your background as a nurse inform your role at Centene?

A. Consistently ranked the most-trusted profession in America, nurses play increasingly larger roles in modern healthcare. Our nurses across the enterprise serve in various positions helping members with complex health issues. We are proud to work for an organization that remains deeply committed to transforming the health of our communities. My background in data and technology provides a unique opportunity to promote tools and strategies that help nurses and other healthcare professionals improve quality of care, optimize outcomes, and enhance efficiency.

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

A. If I had to pick only one person it would be my mentor David Weiss, a retired executive who helped shape my career by leading me through a deeper level of personal transformation. Through a series of meaningful “why” questions, he coached me to rediscover my inner purpose of serving others, which has been the guiding principle of my career path. That mentoring experience was life-changing, and I have been “paying it forward” by mentoring others through Centene’s MOSAIC mentorship program.

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

A. My favorite W. Edwards Demming quote is: “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” Centene’s approach to DEI stands out from other companies because we use insightful data analytics to inform our DEI decisions and actions. Our multi-year DEI leadership model, the growing Employee Inclusion Groups (EIGs), and many thought-provoking programs contribute to a measurable impact as evidenced by the multiple national awards we receive. I have been very excited to see the tremendous growth with our EIG network. I was the former co-president of MOSAIC and when we first established this EIG, we only had 800 members. We have come a long way with nearly 3,700 members now.

Q. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, can you talk about the importance of intersectionality and how we can use an intersectional lens to enhance care, including mental health services, to our members and the communities we serve?

A. Intersectionality, a concept developed by scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, is a way of understanding the impact and experiences of overlapping and intersecting identities. For example, by using an intersectional lens to mental health services, we recognize how multiple forms of inequity can sometimes be compounded to create unique challenges, including trauma, discrimination, and disadvantage.

Q. What are your thoughts on the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

A. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month recognizes the rich cultural diversity of our nation and honors the contributions of all immigrants. It’s a great time for us to learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islanders and celebrate together.