Former nursing student, now government administrator, receives enthusiastic welcome.
Posted: July 6, 2012
Students and faculty alike were thrilled when Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, and Health Resources Services administrator, recently took time out of her busy schedule to pay a visit to her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.
Wakefield received a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978, followed by a doctorate degree in philosophy in 1985. She worked for 11 years in clinical nursing in Texas and North Dakota — primarily in intensive care and medical surgical units.
“Dr. Wakefield is one of our most outstanding alumni, and we were honored to host her visit,” said Dean Alexa Stuifbergen. “She has used her University of Texas at Austin education to serve the public and make a substantial difference in health-care delivery.”
Wakefield was chosen by President Barack Obama in 2009 to head the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the Health and Human Services Department that provides primary health care to 24 million people living in rural and urban communities that don’t have access to basic health services.
As head of HRSA, she oversees a $7.5 billion agency that funds 3,000 grant recipients in 80 different programs. She also administers $2.5 billion in 2009 stimulus funds to expand the nation’s health-care system and address workforce shortages in the health professions.
HRSA focuses on U.S. communities that are underserved or are experiencing a shortage of health-care professionals. The agency addresses a shortage of nurses or doctors through scholarship programs, student-loan repayment contracts and grants to colleges and universities.
Wakefield said two-thirds to three-quarters of underserved areas are in rural America. She explained that traveling 60 to 80 miles to a doctor impedes the well-being of older, and sicker, populations.
Her words did not fall on deaf ears. Faculty and students at the School of Nursing are also actively engaged in promoting health-care services for underserved populations. Two clinics supported by The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing — the Children’s Wellness Center, a school-based health clinic located in the Del Valle Independent School District; and the Family Wellness Center, a primary care facility in East Austin —provide medical care to uninsured people of Austin and Travis County.
In the area of research, the St. David’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research in Underserved Populations (CHPR) was created by the School of Nursing to improve the health of underserved people and is generously supported by the St. David’s Foundation.