Federal Official Says Health Reform Working
November 23, 2010 –The Affordable Care Act is addressing both access to health care in vulnerable populations and the shortage of primary care providers, said Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) during a speech at Georgetown.
Wakefield, whose agency is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke Nov. 22 as part of the McAuley Lecture Series at the university's School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS).
The administrator directs a multibillion-dollar federal agency that promotes access to quality health care for Americans who live in underserved or rural locations.
"The [act] is the most important development in our lifetime," Wakefield told an audience of more than 100 students, faculty and staff at Georgetown.
President Obama appointed Wakefield as HRSA administrator on Feb. 20, 2009.
Before taking the position she served as a tenured professor at the University of North Dakota, where she also was associate dean for rural health at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and director of the Center for Rural Health.
"We are proud to have with us a leader who has embraced various opportunities at each stage of her career," said Julie DeLoia, interim dean of Georgetown's NHS. "She is a strong voice in policy and she is an advocate for the underserved among us."
According to Wakefield, more than 1,100 HRSA grant recipients operate approximately 8,000 community-based clinics in every U.S. state and territory. These clinics reach about 19 million people.
The Affordable Care Act will help expand services, she said, and create scholarships and training for people in the health professions.
She said that over the next five years HRSA hopes to double the number of patients treated at health centers. "That means we need more people to staff these clinics," Wakefield said.
The administrator also highlighted HRSA's National Health Service Corps, which provides scholarship and loan repayment services to health professionals who commit to work in underserved areas of the country.
"I'm looking at the faces of the next generation of health care providers," Wakefield told the students in the audience. "The future is in good hands."