Cherokee Nation’s Healthcare Investments to Spur Education & Economic Growth

The first graduating class is expected to complete their medical education at the new facility in May 2024. The accredited medical school campus is located on the W.W. Hastings campus in Tahlequah, and is the first Tribally-affiliated medical school on Native land in the United States. (OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation)

When it comes to healthcare, Cherokee Nation’s mission is excellence. The Tribe has accomplished two significant “firsts” for Indian Country and the United States, opening the largest-in-the-country healthcare facility for Native Americans, and debuting the first Tribally-affiliated medical school on Tribal land in the country. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. recently spoke to these incredible accomplishments at the Native Business Virtual Summit live broadcast in November 2020.

“We are investing so much in healthcare, and again, I wish the rest of the country, in states like the state I’m in, Oklahoma, viewed healthcare the way the Tribes of this country view it. And I think we — by and large, across the board — believe that it’s something that we all have a shared interest in, and that there ought to be a level playing field for health care. That’s what we believe at Cherokee Nation.” 

READ MORE: Go Big & Go Home: Cherokee Nation Is Leading the Way in World-Class Healthcare

“That’s why we’re on the end here of about an eight-year investment, of about $300 million in all new health care infrastructure. Now keep in mind the United States is a billion dollars behind in infrastructure for health care in Indian Country. And again, we are not waiting on the government, the United States. We are taking our business profits, creating these new clinics across the reservation, and of course our crown jewel is the largest in Indian Country health center in Tahlequah outpatient center — going to create 800 jobs, jobs for 100 doctors, many more nurses and other professions.”

Principal Chief Hoskin is referring to the 469,000-square-foot outpatient health facility, which counts 30 departments under one roof, including more than 240 exam rooms, two MRI machines, an ambulatory surgery center, 34 dental chairs, full service optometry and specialty health services. The Tribe opened the doors to the facility on November 14, 2019.

“That is good for our health outcomes, but it’s also good for the economy, because I think we’re going to create sort of a healthcare corridor here in a relatively small community in northeast Oklahoma that’s going to spur some economic growth we haven’t even thought about yet surrounding this great medical campus.” 

OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Cherokee Nation

In addition to opening the largest-in-the-country healthcare facility for Native Americans, Cherokee Nation created the first Tribally-affiliated medical school on Tribal land in the United States. The accredited medical school campus is located on the W.W. Hastings campus in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

READ MORE: First Tribally Affiliated Medical School Welcomes Inaugural Class of Doctors-in-Training

When Tribes invest in their own infrastructure and education or economic development, it attracts outside partnership and investment. The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Cherokee Nation united in a shared vision of populating rural and underserved Oklahoma with OSU primary care physicians.

“And what’s most exciting of all is all of that investment, of course, was done for the Cherokee people, but it also attracted the attention of great partners like Oklahoma State University. So the first med school in the history of this country in Indian Country is happening right now in Tahlequah. We built a $20 million facility, at least we’re close to finishing it; we got a little slow down due to COVID,” Hoskin noted.

Statistically, a doctor will practice within about 100 miles of where she goes to medical school. So placing a medical school on Tribal land in Tahlequah gives the entire region the opportunity to grow and retain a new crop of doctors. Principal Chief Hoskin is especially excited that many of those primary care physicians who graduate from the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation will be Native Americans.

“That’s amazing that I can go across the reservation and talk to parents and say, ‘Look, your son and daughter could be the doctors of tomorrow for Cherokee Nation,’” Hoskin shared in his keynote speech during the Native Business Virtual Summit. “I can also tell them they can be a doctor trained on the first med school in Indian Country. That’s exciting; that gives people hope for the future. But it does more than that, it creates a pipeline of doctors in a part of the country where we really need them, and it can be a model for what we can do in other Tribes and other Tribal lands.”

Native Business Magazine

Native Business Magazine

Carmen Davis - Founder, Publisher and Executive Editor

Mrs. Davis is the founder, publisher and executive editor of the only Native American wholly owned and operated national tribal business publication, Native Business Magazine, and the producer of the annual and nationally attended Native Business Summit.

Mrs. Davis is also president of Davis Strategy Group has over 23 years of service to Indian Country and as an entrepreneur she has successfully established, operated, managed and grown several businesses in multiple sectors. She is equal parts a strategic visionary and behind-the-scenes implementor, essential in guiding and overseeing every process of brand development, business expansion, nation-to-nation relationship building and more.

She was named in 2009 as one of the first recipients of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s, “40 Under 40” award which recognizes up and coming community and business leaders from across Indian Country.