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Outstanding Alumnus Award

Posted: Feb. 5, 2013

The Outstanding Alumnus/a Award recognizes an alumnus/a of the Graduate School for academic or professional achievements since graduating from the university.

Dr. Mary Katherine Wakefield

Dr. Mary Katherine Wakefield

Mary Katherine Wakefield, an alumna of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named the Graduate School’s Outstanding Graduate Alumnus for 2013.

Wakefield, who earned both her master's (1978) and doctoral (1985) degrees from UT Austin's School of Nursing, has built a distinguished career around the country and the world. She has worked at public and private institutions of higher education, in the political arena, and in governmental agencies.

In 1979, Wakefield began her academic appointment with the University of North Dakota College of Nursing, while expanding her clinical experiences in caring for residents in a rural nursing home setting as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit. She was a model for students in nurse practice and role development. From 1987 to 1996 she served as legislative assistant and then chief of staff to North Dakota senators Quentin Burdick and Kent Conrad, winning her a reputation for developing collaborative solutions to difficult problems. During 1996 to 2001 she served as director of the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics at George Mason University in Virginia, and worked 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, one of the highest honors in medicine and health.

In February 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her as administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services--the first nurse to hold this position. Wakefield oversees the investment of $2.5 billion in health care infrastructure and the training of health-care professionals. This same year, Modern Healthcare, a leading source in health-care business and policy news, research, and information, named Wakefield one of the "Top 25 Women in Health Care."

“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 and address severe provider shortages across the country.”

Dr. Alexa Stuifbergen, Dean of UT Austin's School of Nursing says, "I am proud of how Dr. Wakefield has used the knowledge and preparation she gained as a graduate student at the School of Nursing to effectively provide access to health services for all Americans, including those in largely underserved populations: the elderly, the poor and residents of rural America ...her interest and expertise in policy began at The University of Texas at Austin in courses at the School of Nursing and the LBJ School of Public Affairs." Dean Stuifbergen adds, "... Dr. Wakefield has devoted her entire career to probing for solutions to the pressing dilemma of providing more affordable and accessible health care to those in need. Whether in the examinations room, classroom or boardroom, she has demonstrated a remarkable ability to inspire tomorrow's nurses and health-care professionals and forge partnerships with a broad spectrum of policymakers as a means to providing a more equitable and accessible health-care system for all."

Article originally published on The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School Professional Awards web page.

Photo courtesy of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).