Black History Month Spotlight: Lesleigh Irish-Underwood becomes first Chief Brand and External Relations Officer for MetroPlusHealth

New Chief Brand and External Relations officer Lesleigh Irish Underwood.
Photo courtesy of MetroPlusHealth

Lesleigh Irish-Underwood is looking to take MetroPlusHealth to an even higher level as its new chief brand and external relations officer.

MetroPlusHealth is a leading health coverage provider who prides themselves on offering affordable yet high-quality protection for New Yorkers. This five-star rated company has been in operation since 1985, but despite its longstanding history, those at the organization are also looking to the future with the appointment of Irish-Underwood in this key role.

Growing up in Brooklyn from a modest family background to becoming the first Chief Brand and External Relations Officer, Irish-Underwood is hoping to serve as a bridge between the public and MetroPlusHealth. Describing herself as the “brand czar,” she will be making certain to inform communities of the work the company is doing. But perhaps most importantly of all, she says she yearns to help tell the stories of New Yorkers, making certain they are served in the correct way.

“Business moves at the speed of relationships. Whether it is working with people in the communities we serve or my own colleagues on a Zoom call later today, it’s about building those strong relationships,” she said. “Part of my strength is that I am a native New Yorker. I went to those same high schools, I walked those same streets, my mom taught in those same neighborhoods, my dad grew up in those same areas—my family is mostly still here. You may see this fancy suit now but there were jeans and Pro-Keds 20 years ago.”

As a woman of color born and raised in Brooklyn, it is her priority to help ensure the underserved is served. As MetroPlusHealth takes a strong leadership role in the health insurance space part of this process is to ensure everybody has access to the plans available.

Irish-Underwood believes that the New York City healthcare system is unrivaled and that MetroPlusHealth is not only at the forefront, but also the top choice in her mind when it comes providing policies to those who need coverage thanks to their partnership with New York City health and hospitals.

Irish-Underwood underscored that this is such a unique position to hold but, unfortunately, not everybody is informed of the choices afforded to New Yorkers.

“We have 11 public health hospitals, the closest market is L.A, which only has two,” Irish-Underwood said.

But she herself admits that she was initially unaware of the distinctive opportunities the health system and the insurance company can provide for communities who are struggling. She affirms that more people — including those in leadership — need to know the position the city has to care for those in need.

“There is a real leadership role of addressing the inequities of health as it relates to Black and Brown communities across New York City. There is a leadership place I think Metro in partnership with New York City health and hospitals should be taking,” Irish-Underwood said.

She shared that she has noticed over the years the many disparities and underlying conditions Black and Brown, and low-income communities face. These conditions have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Irish-Underwood hopes to be a catalyst for change in her new positions, bringing awareness and support to those in need.

Irish-Underwood is looking forward to both serving the community she came from and the health care providers to create a union through which countless New Yorkers can receive quality healthcare.

Prior to becoming Chief Brand and External Relations Officer, Irish-Underwood worked for 25 years with Knopf Publishing Group of Random House, Pearson, and Kensington Publishing; most recently, she was part of the United Way.  She graduated from Stony Brook University and was she was named one of Network Journal’s 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business in 2018.

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