TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The second class of 53 student doctors to be accepted into the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation received their white coats during a small ceremony in Tahlequah on July 30. Those in attendance received a welcome from Principal Chief Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin Jr. as well as the invocation by Deputy Chief Bryan Warner.
Twenty-five percent of the class, which includes five Cherokee students, are Native American. Classes started Monday, Aug. 2, with the goal of graduating in four years as trained primary care physicians with experience serving rural and Native American populations.
“Today we celebrate yet another milestone for the Cherokee Nation, as well as for our friends at Oklahoma State University,” Chief Hoskin said. “I take pride in the fact that we can go to Cherokee families everywhere and tell them their sons and their daughters can not only serve their people as a doctor, but they can do it by graduating from the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine right here in the heart of the Cherokee Nation.”
For the past decade, the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma State University Center for Health and Sciences have collaborated on the medical school, which is the first on tribal land in the country. The new 84,000-square-foot medical school building is on the W.W. Hastings medical campus in Tahlequah.
The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation focuses on educating primary care physicians who have an interest in providing care to Native and rural populations in Oklahoma.
Five of the students receiving their white coats are Cherokee: Breanna Sharp, Megan Tramel, Alex Cosby, Katherine Cox and Chet Rotton.
“I think it’s incredible. A lot of the Cherokee Nation is rural and underserved,” Tramel said. “I think it means a lot that the students here and the Cherokee Nation citizens have not only the opportunity to get involved with it here by being in the medical field, but they can see it, it’s close to them, and they can get their care here.”
Synchronized technology-enabled distance learning at OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa will enable students to study with faculty and collaborate with fellow students located in both Tulsa and Tahlequah.
“Being Cherokee, I’ve come to Hastings my whole life, so to be here in a position to learn, to be able to practice, and to give something back feels like a tremendous privilege,” Cosby said. “I’m actually type 1 diabetic. Growing up, I had regular appointments at Hastings with Dr. Lewis and another doctor, Dr. Jelly. Having regular appointments like that, you really build strong bonds with your doctors. I always wanted to be that for a patient one day. Now I have an opportunity to do that for Tahlequah and the surrounding areas.”
The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation will graduate its first class of doctors in May 2024. At full capacity, the medical school will provide 200 students with all four years of medical education at the Tahlequah campus, which is certified by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.