Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Names Bukata Hayes as Vice President of Racial and Health Equity

New Executive Role will Lead Initiatives Focused on Increasing Inclusion, Removing Barriers

(Eagan, Minnesota) – Following an extensive search for a leader to advance strategic priorities stemming from the public health crises of systemic racism and health inequities, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) today announced Bukata Hayes will be the organization’s first-ever vice president of racial and health equity. Hayes comes to Blue Cross from the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, where he served as executive director for nearly 15 years. He will start at Blue Cross on March 29.

In this new role, Hayes will identify and coordinate the specific steps Blue Cross can take to ensure that a racial and health equity lens is applied to every aspect of its work and culture. He will serve as an advisor, bridge builder, strategic leader and partner, supporting other leaders across the organization to identify and execute initiatives that can bring about greater inclusiveness, representation, and lasting and meaningful change. A specific focus will be placed on enhancing policies, programs and health benefit plans in order to address the specific needs of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) members and communities more effectively.

Additionally, Hayes will work with the CEO to co-lead an internal cross-functional advisory group called the Racial Equity Action Committee for Health (REACH), which gives BIPOC associates a voice in how Blue Cross can best address racial and health inequities in communities throughout Minnesota.

“Embracing diversity of opinion, experience, cultural norms and insights is what makes companies vibrant, innovative and distinct,” said Dr. Craig Samitt, president and chief executive officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Bukata is a great fit with our organization and the ideal person for leading this important journey to deliver racial and health equity, both within our organization and in the communities we serve.”

Hayes has more than 20 years of experience organizing and facilitating systemic change within large and small systems such as non-profit, K-12, higher education and rural communities. Before joining the Greater Mankato Diversity Council in 2006, he served as the coordinator of the Multi Ethnic Center at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, the first-ever position of its kind at the college.

Hayes received his bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. Additionally, he is actively involved in numerous community-based organizations, including the Mankato Chapter of the NAACP (executive committee); Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Board, Mankato (president); Steering Committee for Police Reform, Mankato; Mayo Clinic, Mankato Hospital Board; and the Blandin Foundation Board of Trustees. Additionally, Hayes also has served on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation Board of Directors since 2014.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

For nearly 90 years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota ( has supported the health, wellbeing and peace of mind of our members by striving to ensure equitable access to high quality care at an affordable price. We are on a mission to inspire change, transform care and improve health for the people and communities we serve by reinventing both ourselves and the broader system. Our 2.5 million members can be found in every Minnesota county, all 50 states and on four continents. As a proud nonprofit organization, we believe working to advance wellness for all Minnesotans is the greatest investment we can make. Our goal is nothing less than for everyone to be able to achieve their full health potential, regardless of race or other socially defined circumstances. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which serves more than 107 million members across the U.S.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.