Leadership | Essence Healthcare


Richard Jones
President & CEO
As an experienced healthcare executive and certified public accountant, Richard brings more than 30 years of expertise to his current role of president and CEO. Before joining Essence, Richard served as chief financial officer of Essence Group Holdings Corporation (including Essence Healthcare), national president of United Healthcare’s Medicare and Medicaid lines of business, president and CEO of Coventry Healthcare of the Midwest, and chief financial officer of Coventry Corporation.

Martha Butler
Chief Operating Officer
Martha is a talented healthcare executive with more than 25 years of experience in managed care and medical group settings. She has extensive expertise in process improvement, health center administration facilities management, and information systems operations. From 2000 to 2005, she served as executive director of Esse Health, one of the nation’s largest independent physician groups. Previously, Martha held a number of management positions at Group Health Plan, and oversaw the ambulatory surgery department at St. Louis University Hospital. Martha is a native St. Louisan, has three grown children and currently lives in the St. Louis area with her husband.

Deborah Zimmerman, MD
Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Zimmerman has a distinguished history of medical leadership at health plans such as CIGNA, Group Health Plan and Health Partners of the Midwest. Before joining Essence Healthcare, she served as chief medical officer of Mercy Health Plans, a provider–sponsored plan owned by Sisters of Mercy. She is also an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded a successful disease and complex case management firm. Dr. Zimmerman practiced internal medicine for 15 years and is licensed to practice in Missouri and Illinois. Outside of the office, Dr. Zimmerman enjoys traveling — especially to visit her three children. When home in St. Louis, Dr. Zimmerman can often be found cooking and entertaining family and friends.

Joel Andersen
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Joel is a seasoned executive with over 22 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Prior to his current role at Essence Healthcare, he was a founder and chief marketing officer for Essence’s sister company, Lumeris, and also served as president of the company’s EHR software division (ClearPractice). Before joining the Essence family of companies in 2006, he served as vice president of marketing for e-MDs and held a variety of management positions at several healthcare technology companies, including Trizetto, Nightingale and Mariner Systems. When not at work trying to come up with “the next big idea,” he enjoys spending time with his wife and son, writing, playing golf, or cheering on his favorite sports team, the St. Louis Blues.

Gene Poisson
Vice President, Contracting & Network Development
Gene brings over 19 years of experience to Essence Healthcare’s executive team. Prior to joining Essence, Gene spent eight years at HealthCare USA, Missouri’s largest HMO and Medicaid health plan, taking on the role of vice president of network management in his last four years there. Earlier in his career, Gene held management positions at multiple healthcare firms, including HealthLink, Correctional Medical Services and Prudential. Born and raised in St. Louis, Gene attended St. Louis University High School, graduated with his bachelor’s from Truman State and went on to graduate from St. Louis University’s MHA/MBA program. Gene still lives in the St. Louis area with his wife of over 20 years and two children, both in high school. In his spare time, Gene volunteers on the Catholic Family Services Board and for the South County CYC soccer program. When not volunteering, Gene can be found tasting locally crafted beer, watching soccer or working in his vegetable garden.

Erin Venable
Vice President, Internal Audit and Chief Compliance Officer
Erin brings over a decade of public accounting experience to Essence Healthcare, with nine years focused on the insurance industry serving life, health, property/casualty insurers, captive insurers and reinsurers. She has served companies in all aspects of audit service delivery and related audit and financial reporting matters, including coordination and execution of financial statement audits, review and supervision of staff accountants, and documentation and testing of business processes and internal controls. In her role at Essence, Erin provides strategic vision and oversight to the compliance and internal audit functions of the company. A native of Columbia, Missouri, Erin and her family enjoy all things Mizzou sports. When not rooting for her favorite teams, Erin will likely be out of the country pursuing her other passion – traveling. To date, Erin has been to Spain, France, England, Italy, Vietnam, Thailand, China, India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland.