Jim Macrae, HRSA's associate administrator for primary healthcare, will take over as acting administrator of HRSA. As head of the Bureau of Primary Health Care, Macrae oversaw the Federally Qualified Health Center Program.
“As I assume this new role, I want to let you know how proud I am of all that we have accomplished together during these past 6 years,” Wakefield said in a statement to HRSA employees. “Our work has enabled HRSA grantees to provide high-quality healthcare to millions of people, to train the next generation of healthcare providers, and to strengthen the nation's healthcare safety net."
Reflecting on her time in office, Wakefield said the agency has strengthened its oversight capabilities and modernized the way it executes programs. She also pointed to the significant role the agency played in facilitating major initiatives related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as the Affordable Care Act.
Shortly after Wakefield took office in 2009, HHS and HRSA announced the release of $338 million in grant money under the Recovery Act to help expand services at over 1,000 federally qualified community health centers. The initiative was expected to create or retain about 6,400 jobs and provide care to an additional 2.1 million patients through 2011.
A native of North Dakota, Wakefield has been a vocal advocate for improvements in rural healthcare. Under Wakefield's leadership, HRSA signed an agreement with the U.S. Labor Department in 2012 to use existing resources at community colleges and technical colleges to support the training of health information technology professionals at rural hospitals and clinics.
The HRSA continues to be involved in a long-lasting legal battle with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry's lobbying group, over issues with the federal 340B drug-discount program, which assists providers serving indigent and uninsured patients.
PhRMA has challenged the agency's ruling that safety net hospitals are allowed to buy so-called orphan drugs at a discount to treat non-orphan conditions.
Before working at HRSA, Wakefield was the associate dean for rural health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She also served as director of the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and chief of staff for former U.S. Sens. Kent Conrad and Quentin Burdick, both of North Dakota.
Wakefield was named one of Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare in 2009, 2011 and 2013, along with former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Follow Adam Rubenfire on Twitter: @arubenfire