Mary Wakefield

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Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., Administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); 2009-Present

Mary Wakefield was named administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) by President Barack Obama on February 20, 2009.

Professional background[edit]

Dr. Wakefield joins HRSA from the University of North Dakota (UND), where she was associate dean for rural health at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, a tenured professor, and director of the university’s Center for Rural Health.

“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,” President Obama said in announcing her appointment. “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.”

Dr. Wakefield brings experience on Capitol Hill to her post at HRSA. In the 1990s, she served as chief of staff to two North Dakota senators: Kent Conrad (D) and Quentin Burdick (D).

She also has served as director of the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and worked on site as a consultant to the World Health Organization’s Global Programme on AIDS in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr. Wakefield is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and was elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies in 2004. She served on the IOM committee that produced the landmark reports To Err is Human and Crossing the Quality Chasm. She also co-chaired the IOM committee that produced the report Health Professions Education, and chaired the committee that produced the report Quality through Collaboration: Health Care in Rural America.

In addition, she has served on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, as chair of the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry, and as a member of the National Advisory Committee to HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy.

At UND, Dr. Wakefield also was director of the Rural Assistance Center, a HRSA-funded source of information on rural health and social services for researchers, policymakers, program managers, project officers and the general public. In addition, the Center for Rural Health administered a $1.6 million award from HRSA under the Critical Access Hospital Health Information Technology Implementation program.


Dr. Wakefield is a native of Devils Lake, N.D. She has a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Mary in Bismarck and master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin. She also received an honorary doctorate of science degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA in 2011.


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