In February, President Obama announced his selection of Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., to lead the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is the primary federal agency working to improve access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable. Wakefield is a leading advocate for rural health care.
Until her appointment, Wakefield had served as associate dean for rural health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and as the director of the University’s Center for Rural Health. She is well versed in the particular challenges facing rural Americans in need of health care.
“Access to services is probably the biggest concern in rural health care,” she said in an October 2008 interview with the Commonwealth Fund Digest. “When we talk about access in national public policy forums, we're often referring to health insurance coverage. While that's important in rural areas, too, I'm really talking about geographic access to health care services. It also means access to a health care workforce and access to different sectors—home health care, inpatient acute care, specialty care…. One innovation that has emerged in North Dakota—and certainly in other states, as well—is the application of technology to extend the reach of health care providers who might be hundreds of miles away from their patients.”
“As a nurse, a Ph.D., and a leading rural health care advocate, Mary Wakefield brings expertise that will be instrumental in expanding and improving services for those who are currently uninsured or underserved,” said President Obama. “Under her leadership we will be able to expand and improve the care provided at the Community Health Centers which serve millions of uninsured Americans and address severe provider shortages across the country.”
Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-N.Dak.), applauded Wakefield’s appointment, calling her “an intelligent and talented individual who has the background and expertise to make a real difference in our nation's health care policy.”
In 2007, Mary Wakefield, worked with Ira Muscovice, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) program. Their project examined the impact of nurse staffing and nurses’ work environment on hospital performance improvement in the CMS/Premier Inc. Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration (HQID) project.