Mary Wakefield: Well, it was a terrific surprise. I wasn't even aware that I was under consideration. So that was exciting. And I suppose my other reaction is that it's a wonderful group of accomplished women to be a part of.
Transcript: Mary Wakefield, administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration
Mary Wakefield: The advice I would have probably harkens back to a statement that President Barack Obama said repeatedly throughout the campaign. And it goes something like this: “Ordinary people committed to a cause can accomplish extraordinary things.” I firmly believe that's true. And I would say that for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare and making a meaningful contribution, first need to feel it in their gut. It needs to be where you want to be. And then the tenacity goes a long way.
Mary Wakefield: I think that my background in nursing is fundamental to what I've been able to achieve, in part because a lot of where I worked as a nurse was in intensive care. And in that environment, you have to be able to move fast, think fast, expect the unexpected, be organized about what you're planning, but always paying attention to what might be occurring. And what might be occurring is something that you can't really plan for. And a lot of being effective, I think, in healthcare areas, whether that's healthcare policy or healthcare delivery, is about expecting the unexpected and being ready to react and feeling confident in how you're reacting in those situations. So I would say my experience as an intensive-care nurse—good training for what I do right now.
Mary Wakefield: I think the most important issue is twofold, are really two issues. One, getting our healthcare costs, our expenses, our expenditures in healthcare under control. And also extending the reach of healthcare to the 47 million uninsured in the United States. So it's trying to strike a balance between two very difficult challenges. One, driving down the cost of healthcare, and driving down the rate of growth in healthcare costs; and two, ensuring that everybody in the United States has access to healthcare coverage so that they have meaningful access to healthcare.
Mary Wakefield: President Obama is doing everything he possibly can to ensure that there is a healthcare package on his desk to sign. I think he recognizes how extremely important this is to Americans, both in terms of businesses that are being crippled by the cost of healthcare, as well as individuals and families who also are bearing tremendous costs. And then, too, the importance of access to healthcare for people who currently don't have healthcare insurance coverage and so are accessing it only intermittently and very frequently not in the best places like our emergency rooms, for example.
Mary Wakefield: The mission is very targeted toward ensuring that vulnerable families, communities, have access to high-quality healthcare. That's an extremely important mission. We have a terrific set of employees in this agency, and my job is to focus like a laser on ensuring that we're executing our mission as efficiently and productively as possible with always for an eye toward improving not just what we're doing but how we're doing it.
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