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BCBS of Minnesota CEO Dana Erickson shares leadership lessons at Women in Business

"If you own the company, would you hire you?"

Recently, the Minnesota Chamber continued its return to in-person events with another chapter of the Women in Business series. The event held at the St. Paul Hotel featured President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Dana Erickson, in her first public event in her new role. Dana shared how her community-oriented upbringing led to a career in health care as a registered nurse and now the first female CEO in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota history. 

"I worked as a labor and delivery nurse for several years at a suburb of Milwaukee where I actually could have joy with families that were welcoming lives into the world," she said. "And then I cried with families who had to make tough decisions and say goodbye to loved ones, whether that was at the end of a long life, or that was too early. And It was a real privilege for me to be able to experience that."

This experience in an acute care setting led Dana to explore how to help people before they needed care. 

"What are the systems in place to actually help keep people from getting ill?" she said. "How do we think about the systems that impact health care, the health care ecosystem, in a different way?"

This curiosity shaped her view of health care throughout her career, which eventually led to a role at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. 

"My time in managed care is one that really has allowed me to think of and view the systems from a health care perspective that can make a difference in people's lives," she said. "I joined Blue Cross in 2015. There was a couple of reasons why I joined Blue Cross...I had actually been working in public health prior to joining Blue Cross, and I saw the impact and the reputation that Blue Cross had in the community. Coming from my background in rural health care and knowing that there are disparities in the urban setting, but also in the rural setting, the commitment that Blue Cross had to the community was hugely important to me."

Prior to being promoted to President and CEO, Erickson served as Senior Vice President and President of Health Services at Blue Cross. In that role, she was responsible for the overall strategic planning, development, implementation and administration of care management, provider relations, pharmacy and medical management. In October 2021, she was named the first female CEO in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota history. 

"I look across the room at a lot of faces and there's been many trails blazed long before me," she said. "I am well aware of that. And at the same time, immensely proud to be the first female CEO of Blue Cross in that 90 years as well. So very proud of that."

As a female CEO, what advice does Dana have for other women business leaders? 

"It's very rarely leadership or advancement is stopped because of technical skills," she said. "I find it's almost always around character and your willingness to work on yourself first. I had a mentor once who said to me 'Every day when you get up, you should ask yourself if you own the company, would you hire you knowing what's going through your mind, how you treat your colleagues, how you think about your customers, would you hire you?'"

That mindset is something Dana thinks of each day in her role. 

"I think about that every day. Am I making sure that I am showing up every day, 100% committed to the success of the enterprise, to be honest, more than myself, more than I'm committed to the success of myself. For me, that's always been a driver. It's about the results of the company. It's about making sure that I can make the people around me successful as a leader." 

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Interested in other Women in Business events?

Join us on August 2 at Mystic Lake's beautiful event center for this half-day conference. This event builds on our highly successful quarterly series to dive deeper into topics of interest to women business leaders.