Devils Lake woman nominated for HHS Deputy Secretary position

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Dr. Mary Wakefield

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp this week introduced North Dakota native Dr. Mary Wakefield at a U.S. Senate Committee on Finance hearing on Wakefield’s nomination to serve as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – the second in command at the agency.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven introduced Wakefield at the Senate Confirmation Hearing.

Wakefield has served as Acting Deputy Secretary of the agency since March 2015. Previously she served as Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency within HHS, since February 20, 2009, where she expanded access to health care and built out the country’s health care workforce. HRSA is tasked with improving access to care for underserved populations, with bureaus focused on primary care, maternal and child health, health workforce, and rural health.

Sen. Heitkamp

“Throughout her career in public service, Dr. Wakefield has proven over and over that she is a trailblazer in expanding access to health services, a staunch advocate for rural communities, and a top expert in her field,” said Heitkamp. “But what Dr. Wakefield can’t show on her resume is how deeply she cares about her work and the families she impacts. Mary and I have known each other for a long time and we’re both from small towns in North Dakota, which greatly shaped how we view our work in public service. We understand the needs of rural communities which too often feel distant from more urban parts of the country. Mary chose a career in public service – whether as a nurse, academic, or in government – because she genuinely wants to give back. And she continues to get results. The values Mary learned in our state, as well as through her careers, taught her the importance of working to reach compromises from sides that don’t always agree. But most importantly, Mary never forgets who she is fighting for and the importance of getting the job done right. She is very much up to the challenge of improving and protecting the health and well-being of all Americans, and I strongly encourage this committee and then the full Senate confirm her for this position.”

Sen. Hoeven

“Dr. Wakefield understands firsthand the challenges associated with providing quality, affordable and accessible health care services, particularly in rural and tribal communities. This knowledge will be a valuable asset as she helps to lead HHS,” said Hoeven. “Dr. Wakefield has devoted her career to improving health care and serving the public. I encourage the committee to support her nomination and send her to the full Senate for confirmation.”

About Wakefield

Wakefield previously served as associate dean for rural health at the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In the 1990s, she served as chief of staff to two North Dakota U.S. Senators, Kent Conrad and Quentin Burdick. Dr. Wakefield is a native of Devils Lake, North Dakota. She has a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota and master's and doctoral degrees in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin.