Mary Wakefield

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Mary Wakefield
PhD R.N.
United States Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
April 2015 – January 20, 2017
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Bill Corr
Succeeded by Colleen Barros (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1954-08-12) August 12, 1954 (age 63)
Devils Lake, North Dakota, U.S.
Alma mater University of Mary (BSN)
University of Texas at Austin (MSN, PhD)

Mary Wakefield (born August 12, 1954) is an American nurse and health care administrator, who served in the Obama administration as acting United States Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2015 to 2017, and as head of the Health Resources and Services Administration from 2009 to 2015.[1][2]


Wakefield was born in Devils Lake, North Dakota in 1954.[1] She completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota in 1976, and completed a Master of Science degree in 1978 and a PhD in 1985, in nursing at the University of Texas at Austin.[3][4]


Wakefield worked as a full or part-time nurse, primarily in rural nursing homes and intensive care, from 1976 to 1985, and taught nursing from 1977 to 1987 at the University of North Dakota.[5][6]

A request for a summer internship in 1987 led to a position as a legislative assistant for health matters for Senator Quentin Burdick (D-ND),[6] who later made her chief of staff. After Burdick's death in 1992,[5] she worked for a month as a consultant for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland,[7] then took the position of chief of staff for Senator Kent Conrad, which she held until 1996.[6] Her Senate duties included co-chairing the Senate Rural Health Caucus Staff Organization with Sheila Burke, who was also a nurse and was chief of staff for Senator Bob Dole, from 1987 to 1992.[5][6][8]

In 1996 she returned to academia and served as professor and director of the Center for Health Policy, Research, and Ethics at George Mason University.[5] In 2001 she returned to North Dakota as the associate dean for rural health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and director of the Center for Rural Health at UND's School of Medicine and Health Sciences.[6] 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.[5] She was a superdelegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[9]

Obama Administration[edit]

Wakefield was named administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) by President Barack Obama in February 2009.[3][10] The agency has a budget of $7.5 billion agency that distributes funding across some 3,000 grants spanning 80 programs, and received an additional $2.5B under the Affordable Care Act.[11]

As the administrator of HRSA, she oversaw the approximately 1,100 federally supported community care clinics that serve people without health insurance or who are under-insured; she oversaw the disbursement of $150 million in funding to those clinics under the Affordable Care Act to help people enroll in the program,[12] and another $250 million in competitive grant funding to build new community care clinics and increase services.[13] She also administered the disbursement of $55.5 million in grants to increase the nurse and dentistry workforces.[14]

Deputy Secretary[edit]

Wakefield began serving as acting Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services in April 2015, after the resignation of Bill Corr, and on July 9, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Wakefield to that job permanently.[15] On July 13, 2015, her nomination was sent to the United States Senate, and she received a hearing before the United States Senate Committee on Finance on February 4, 2016.[16][17] Ultimately, however, her nomination was stalled in the Senate and she was never confirmed, due to disputes over abortion between Republican Senators and the Department of Health and Human Services, which had nothing to do with Wakefield personally.[18] Her term as acting deputy secretary ended on January 20, 2017, and she returned to North Dakota.[2]


Wakefield served on the Institute of Medicine (IoM) committee that produced the report, To Err is Human in 1999, and Crossing the Quality Chasm in 2001.[5] She also co-chaired the IOM committee that produced the 2003 report Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality,[19] and chaired the committee that produced the 2005 report Quality Through Collaboration: The Future of Rural Health Care (2005).[5][20]

In addition, she was a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry from 1997 to 1998,[21] served on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission from 1999 to 2004,[8][22] and was appointed a member of the National Advisory Committee to HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy in 1999.[8] She served a three-year term as a member of the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality from 2001 to 2004.[5][21]


Wakefield is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2004.[5]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Nomination of Mary Katherine Wakefield, Hearing before the Committee on Finance" (PDF). Senate Finance Committee. United States Senate. February 4, 2016. p. 61. Retrieved October 11, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Easter, Sam (January 1, 2017). "Devils Lake native Mary Wakefield looks to life after top D.C. job". Grand Forks Herald. Grands Forks, North Dakota. Retrieved September 29, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Rucker, Philip (February 20, 2009). "Mary Wakefield Picked as HRSA Chief". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved February 20, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Outstanding Alumnus Award". University of Texas School of Nursing News. Austin, Texas. February 5, 2013. Retrieved September 29, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Noel Brinkerhoff for AllGov. June 22, 2010 Health Resources and Services Administration: Who is Mary Wakefield?
  6. ^ a b c d e Beth Blevins for the Rural Monitor. February 28, 2008. 2008 Interview with Mary Wakefield
  7. ^ George Washington University Nursing Program Mary Wakefield Biography
  8. ^ a b c Citizen Advocacy Center Biography of Mary Wakefield
  9. ^ Washington Post. January 14, 2008 Democratic Super Delegates
  10. ^ Official Biography at HRSA Page accessed Feb 28, 2015
  11. ^ Tom Sullivan for Government Health IT. September 13, 2012 HIMSS Federal Policy Leader Award: HRSA head Mary Wakefield
  12. ^ Jennifer Corbett Dooren for the Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2013 Community Clinics Get ‘Obamacare’ Grants
  13. ^ Darryl Fears for the Washington Post August 18, 2010 Health centers to get $250 million in grants to build clinics, boost services
  14. ^ Josh Hicks for the Washington Post. December 6, 2013 Obama administration awards $55 million to boost health-care workforce
  15. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts", White House, July 9, 2015
  16. ^ "Presidential Nomination Sent to the Senate", White House, July 13, 2015
  17. ^ Hatch to Hold Nominations Hearing, United States Senate Committee on Finance, January 29, 2016
  18. ^ Sullivan, Peter (May 28, 2016). "Abortion fight stalls Obama nominee". The Hill. Washington, D.C. Retrieved September 29, 2017. 
  19. ^ Institute of Medicine. Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality
  20. ^ Institute of Medicine. Quality Through Collaboration: The Future of Rural Health Care (2005)
  21. ^ a b February 7, 2001 Mary Wakefield Appointed to National Advisory Council
  22. ^ GAO. May 20, 2004 Comptroller General Walker Announces Appointment of Members to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission