President Barack Obama recently named Mary Wakefield as the new Head of his Healthcare Access Agency. Wakefield is a rural healthcare expert who currently heads the University of North Dakota’s Center for Rural Health.

The White House said that Wakefield was chosen to head the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, because of her current position at the university and her previous role as chief of staff to North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad (D). Obama believes she will expertly manage the federal agency dedicated to improving access to healthcare in the U.S.

The Health Resources and Services Administration will oversee the disbursement of $2.5 billion provided by the economic stimulus bill that Obama recently signed. The agency’s primary function is to improve access to healthcare services for people without medical insurance, as well as to improve the nation’s overall healthcare infrastructure and healthcare systems in rural communities.

Studies indicated that people living in rural areas of the U.S. Frequently have poor access to good health services because major hospitals are located in high-use urban areas. According to the 2007 U.S. Census, 15 percent of Americans (45.7 million people) had no health insurance. Not only that, but the country is currently facing a drastic shortage of nurses. According to Reuters’ Eric Walsh, there are 116,000 unfilled

nursing positions in U.S. Hospitals, and 100,000 unfilled nursing and related positions in nursing homes. As baby boomer nurses continue to retire the nursing shortage will increase more and more as time goes on.