Meet Mary Wakefield, the Nurse Administrator Tasked With Revamping the CDC

by | Sep 6, 2022 | Health

It’s been a rough couple of years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facing a barrage of criticism for repeatedly mishandling its response to the covid-19 pandemic and more recently monkeypox, the agency has acknowledged it failed and needs to change.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has tapped Mary Wakefield — an Obama administration veteran and nurse — to helm a major revamp of the sprawling agency and its multibillion-dollar budget. Making the changes will require winning over wary career CDC scientists, combative members of Congress, and a general public that in many cases has stopped looking to the agency for guidance.

“If she can’t fix it, she’ll say, ‘It’s not fixable, here’s why, and here’s what needs to be done next,’” said Eileen Sullivan-Marx, dean of the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing, who has known Wakefield professionally for decades.

Other former colleagues said Wakefield’s experience as a nurse, congressional staffer, policy wonk, and administrator give her the perspective and leadership tools to rise to the occasion, even as they acknowledged the magnitude of the job ahead.

“She has high standards, and she’ll expect people to perform,” said Brad Gibbens, a former employee and the acting director of the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “She’s ver …

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