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An American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Living Legend honoree has been tapped to assist with the Biden-Harris Presidential transition team. Public health expert, educator, and former ICU nurse Mary Wakefield is serving as a volunteer member of the Health and Human Services team as they prepare to move to Washington, DC in January. HHS is familiar ground for Wakefield, who has substantial experience in Washington. During Barack Obama’s first term she was administrator of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, and in 2015-2017 she was acting deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Wakefield, who is also a former director of the University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health, returned to academia after completing her term at the HHS, but her background and expertise make her return to public service seem inevitable. Debbie Swanson, director of the Grand Forks Public Health Department (and a former student of Wakefield’s at UND), applauded her selection for the transition team: “I think she’s really well-positioned to significantly contribute to that team for the Department of Health and Human Services, and I think it’s especially important because of the vast experience that she’s had in health care and public policy. But one of the things I really want to state is that she’ll represent nurses who are on the frontlines of public health and health care in our country, and she’s greatly respected and admired by nurses, so we’re excited that she has a seat at the table to help with a smooth transition within a federal agency that impacts health and nursing.”
The current director of UND’s Center for Rural Health, Brad Gibbens, is delighted by the addition of Wakefield to the transition team. Gibbens stressed the value of Wakefield’s expertise in rural health care and her North Dakota roots, noting, “She very much keeps the idea of rural in front of everybody…. She understands rural at a national level, but she also really understands it at the North Dakota level. So some of the unique things that we deal with, as it relates to, say, critical-access hospitals, as it relates to rural health workforce, as it relates to addressing population health needs, she has that knowledge and awareness from a rural state that she can put in front of the people as they’re starting to take over for a new administration.”
For more details on Mary Wakefield, see this article in the Grand Forks Herald.
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