The Cherokee Nation has been plagued with many of the same problems as Tribal Nations across the United States, including struggling to attract a sufficient number of primary care physicians. “Some of our remote areas are hard to fill,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker during his keynote speech on Tuesday, May 14th at the Native Business Summit, hosted May 13-15th at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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“So next week, we will be breaking ground on the very first medical school in Indian Country at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma,” he announced to much applause, alluding to the Monday, May 20 groundbreaking. “It’s a partnership with OSU [Oklahoma State University], where we can grow our own physicians.”
Principal Chief Baker continued: “If you’ve got bright young people, have them think about coming to Indian Country, coming to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and becoming a physician to come back to your home communities, so that your Tribe can be served by family the way it was supposed to be.
Our Native American doctors that are trained in Indian Country — it’s going to change us from being a desert of primary care physicians to an oasis.
Fifty kids per class per year; we’ll have 200 kids in a class at any given time. [We’ll be] putting out 50 new doctors a year, folks, trained in Indian health. It’s going to be game changing. Those doctors will be some of the highest-paid Native Americans in their communities.”
Leaders from the Cherokee Nation and OSU for Health Sciences will officially break ground Monday on the approximately 80,000 square-foot OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.
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The new, accredited medical school campus will be located on the W.W. Hastings campus in Tahlequah, and is the first Tribally-affiliated medical school on Tribal land in the United States.
“This groundbreaking marks a monumental achievement for not only Cherokee Nation, but for all of Indian Country,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We know that Native Americans make up only 0.2 percent of medical students nationwide. Through our work with the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine here at the Cherokee Nation, we are taking important steps to fill that gap and produce more physicians that are Tribal citizens. They will positively impact rural northeastern Oklahoma with their medical service.”
The facility will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, lecture halls and cutting-edge technology such as computer-programmable manikins and medical simulation. The college is slated to open with 50 students in 2020. The medical school is expected to serve 200 students when it becomes fully operational.
“The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Cherokee Nation have a shared vision of populating rural and underserved Oklahoma with OSU primary care physicians,” said Kayse Shrum, D.O., OSU-CHS president and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I can’t think of a better way to achieve this vision than by partnering with the Cherokee Nation to establish the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation. The groundbreaking for this new medical school in Tahlequah marks a new day for rural and Tribal health.”