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At the Nexus of Health-related Research and Policymaking: Former U.S. Health and Human Services Acting Deputy Secretary Joins School of Nursing

Posted: Oct. 6, 2017

Dr. Mary Wakefield

Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, FAAN and former acting deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will join the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and LBJ School of Public Affairs this fall. Wakefield will serve as visiting professor and distinguished fellow of the Joseph H. Blades Centennial Memorial Professorship in Nursing.

Dr. Wakefield will lead a seminar series exploring the nexus of health-related research and public policy. She will apply her expertise in health care policy that was honed over many years in public and private institutions of higher education, the political arena, and governmental agencies in sessions with faculty and students to examine health care access and explore how it can be improved.

“As a nurse scientist, research is only one step in creating change,” Dr. Wakefield said. “The second, very important step is to consider the health policy implications of the research. When crafting research questions, policy implications for health care costs, access and quality merit consideration.”

Dr. Wakefield received both her master’s and doctoral degrees from UT Austin’s School of Nursing and was named the Graduate School’s Outstanding Graduate Alumnus for 2013. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in medicine and health.

“Dr. Wakefield has used her UT Austin education to serve the public and probe for solutions to the pressing dilemma of providing more affordable and accessible health care,” Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the UT Austin School of Nursing, said.With her expertise ranging from rural to global health, her seminars will prepare students to be leaders and change agents in analyzing and informing state and national health policies.

The seminar series will focus on the health policymaking process, redesign of health care systems through health care policy, and policies designed to make an impact on selected populations and decrease costs. The series will begin with an orientation to the fundamental structures and processes of federal health policymaking to ensure that participating students have common background and understanding of key features of this process.

President Barack Obama and Dr. Mary Wakefield

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Wakefield to head the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with over 80 federal health programs, including providing funding for primary health care to 24 million people living in rural and urban communities, many of whom would otherwise be without access to basic health services. She was the first nurse to lead that division.

In 2015, she was appointed acting deputy secretary for Health and Human Services. Recently she was awarded the Health Care Leader award by the American Academy of Nursing, based on her extraordinary contributions to improving health care for individuals, populations and the nation.

“UT Austin students who attend Dr. Wakefield’s seminars will hear how health policy is made and health-related research is promoted at the highest levels of government,” Dean Stuifbergen said. “It will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In addition to her roles at UT Austin, she was named a visiting distinguished professor in the Practice of Health Care at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies in Washington, D.C.

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