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Obama chooses UND director to lead federal Health Resources and Services Administration

GRAND FORKS. - Dr. Mary Wakefield, director of the Center for Rural Health at UND, was named by President Obama today to be the administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

"As a nurse, a Ph.D., and a leading rural health advocate, Mary Wakefield brings expertise that will be instrumental in expanding and improving services for those who are currently uninsured or underserved," Obama said in a news release.

"Under her leadership we will be able to expand and improve the care provided at the Community Health Centers, which serve millions of uninsured Americans and adress severe provider shortages across the country," the president said.

The Health Resources and Services Administration is under the federal Health and Human Services Department. It's main task is to help ensure delivery of health care to the uninsured or underserved and oversees Community Health Centers across the country. The HRSA also received a $2.5 billion allocation under the federal stimulus package to invest in health care infrastructure and training.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., applauded the appointment, saying in a statement this afternoon that Wakefield is "an intelligent and talented individual who has the background and expertise to make a real difference in our nation's health care policy."

"I have no doubt that she will do a tremendous job heading HRSA," Conrad said. "I am proud of her. All of North Dakota should be as well."

Wakefield, who grew up in Devils Lake, was named director of UND's Center for Rural Health in 1992 after spending the early part of her career on the East Coast. She was director of the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and also served as chief of staff for Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and as a legislative assistant and chief of staff for Sen. Quentin Burdick, D-N.D.

Wakefield is a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck, as well as the University of Texas. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, and recently received the 2008 Nursing Economics Margaret D. Sovie Writer's Award.