Emerging Industry Leaders: Mairéad McInerney of AmeriHealth Caritas

MHE Publication, MHE September 2022, Volume 32, Issue 9

Mairéad McInerney, M.S.W., LCSW, CCM, corporate director of population health, wellness coordination, at AmeriHealth Caritas, headquartered in Philadelphia, is one of the 10 up-and-coming healthcare leaders featured in the annual Managed Healthcare Executive feature.

Mairéad McInerney, M.S.W., LCSW, CCM

I grew up in Queens, New York, immersed in cultural diversity. I am an American born to two Irish immigrant parents who shared the dream of ensuring that their daughters received a quality education. As first-generation students, my sister and I became the first in our family to earn high school degrees.

I went on to earn a B.S. in psychology and minor in faith-justice from Saint Joseph’s University and a M.S.W. from University of Pennsylvania.

As someone who takes great pride in assisting others, some of my leadership high points include being selected as a peer leader at Saint Joseph’s University for service-learning trips and leading AmeriHealth Caritas’ initial community-based teams.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare?

As a little girl, I was always passionate about helping others. When I got to college, I learned the vocabulary for my real passions: social justice and psychology.

I learned about social work somewhat by chance due to my high school and college volunteer work as a camp counselor, as well as through my role at a residential school as a member of the therapeutic support staff.

My discussions with social workers solidified that this was the career path for me. I loved hearing about how they take on the role of change agents and work to take a stand against injustice.

Which career accomplishment are you proudest of and why?

I’m proud of how I’ve been able to build an active legacy of leaders. I really enjoy the people management aspect of leadership. I’m a firm believer that we are all our best selves when we are continually learning, sharing knowledge and working collaboratively.

What is the most challenging part of your current position?

Balancing hope. While life is never easy, we are living in especially challenging times. To combat uneasiness, I try to keep my team and myself anchored in a strengths-based model and framework.

Our frontline staff engages with our members constantly. Being able to help others in their most challenging moments is a deeply rewarding experience, but it can also take a toll when we’re dealing with others’ life stressors and our own as well.

To stay grounded, my team and I engage in continual self-reflection and work to create a sense of community so that we can be our best selves for each other and our members.

What is your organization doing to address healthcare equity?

AmeriHealth Caritas has been an early pioneer in addressing the health outcomes of people challenged by poverty and disability. We develop initiatives and programs that encompass and address the many social and environmental factors that engender or inhibit wellness and opportunity.

In 2021, AmeriHealth Caritas announced that it established Social Determinants of Life, Inc. — a unique social determinants-first company that reflects how we are reinvigorating our pursuit of a longer-term focus on resilience and life outcomes.

If you could change one thing in U.S. healthcare, what would it be?

I would want others to fully recognize the impact that violence in our communities is having on our health. All that toxic stress is absorbed by our bodies. My hope is that our healthcare system can come together to address violence as a public health issue.

How do you avoid burnout?

I think it’s important to recognize that burnout can spill into all aspects of our lives, not just those related to work. To avoid burnout, I recommend prioritizing people over tasks.

Measure your personal success each day by reflecting on the impacts of your contributions. If you were able to positively impact someone else’s life today, that’s a mark of a day well done. I also believe in the importance of daily integrations, whether through music or movement. I take meetings while walking my dog, listen to music while strategizing for work and read leisurely to put stressors into perspective.

Having mentors and peers to share experiences with gives additional perspective. If you surround yourself with smart, funny and generous people, it makes it easier knowing you’re not going anywhere alone.