The Cherokee Nation’s Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services staff cut the ribbon at a May 4 open house for the tribe’s new lactation center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Nation opens breastfeeding center

Expectant mother Alayna Farris takes a tour of the nursing room during a May 4 open house at the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX The breastfeeding room of the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center offers a relaxing atmosphere, rocking chair and subdued lighting for nursing mothers. The center is located at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Expectant mother Alayna Farris takes a tour of the nursing room during a May 4 open house at the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
05/06/2011 06:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Alayna Farris is expecting her first baby this fall. And though she’s months away from meeting her new arrival, she’s already decided to breastfeed her baby.

“(I plan to breastfeed because of) the benefits of the immunities that will be passed on to my baby,” she said. “And just making sure that I’m making the right choices to have a healthy baby.”

The Cherokee Nation Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services have been assisting nursing mothers for several years, but now the program has its own site at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah.

The Breastfeeding Services group held an open house May 4 to show new and expecting moms where they can come for services and information such as peer counseling, educational information and expertise of other breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding Services Coordinator Brenda Carter said breastfeeding mothers need all the support they can get, and that’s the purpose of the center.

“We want our breastfeeding moms to feel special,” she said. “They’ve chosen to breastfeed, and we want to make sure they have the support they need. That’s one of the big reasons for people to continue breastfeeding, the support.”

The center has been a longtime dream of WIC Lactation Coordinator Euphemia John, Carter said. “She’s been our lactation coordinator for many years. In the back of her head she always had a special place for moms to come for support, classes and education.”

Support groups are a major aspect of the center, John said.

“That’s what we want to have here,” John said. “Support groups where women can support each other and share all their experiences they have. That helps them learn from each other.”

Farris said she’s always known she wanted to breastfeed her baby, especially since all her aunts breastfed their babies. “I saw how healthy all their babies were.”

She added that the center should be a great resource for new mothers.

“It’s more support,” Farris said. “The more support I can get in all aspects of having a new baby the better.”

John said the center’s atmosphere is a relaxed one, complete with neutral paint on the walls, photos of mothers and their babies and even a nursing room with a rocking chair, ottoman, subdued lighting, mural of a tropical beach on the wall and calming music.

“The subdued lighting is to have moms get comfortable sitting there, and get relaxed and comfortable,” she said.

WIC Nutrition Coordinator Pam Wedding said the mural is intended to relax mothers.

“The mural is another way of relaxing so that moms cannot feel tense,” Wedding said. “That’s counterproductive to the support. It’s a place with a comfortable chair where it doesn’t feel really clinical and medical.”

Farris said the entire center had the desired effect on her.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said. “It’s peaceful in here. It’s somewhere where I want to be.”

But Breastfeeding Services workers aren’t just helping nursing moms, they are also working to break the stigma of breastfeeding created by those who don’t understand the choice.

“It’s not just WIC that we have to educate,” Carter said. “It’s the different departments. And we’re working to do that.”

She said breastfeeding is generational in that it’s passed down in families, but some of the younger generations have ditched the method for bottle-feeding.

“My mom breastfed, but you know, (younger generations) skipped that,” Carter said.

She added that a state law supports breastfeeding mothers, a fact many people don’t realize.

John also said the CN WIC group is working with the Healthy Nation program to possibly create a billboard about breastfeeding to assist in that effort.

“I think when people don’t see it visually out there they’re not going to get used to the idea,” John said. “It has to be out there.”

Carter said the tribe is lucky that CN Medical Director Gloria Grim supports the breastfeeding movement.

“The Cherokee Nation allows its employee who are working mothers the appropriate time and a safe place to support the mother’s choice to breastfeed their baby, which mirrors the government’s guidelines on breastfeeding,” Grim said in an emailed statement. “We continually work to educate expecting mothers on the importance of breastfeeding and the health benefits to their baby. With the new lactation center, we provide mothers with a relaxing environment so they remain committed to breastfeeding their child. We have dedicated space in some Cherokee Nation health centers and hope to implement more in other facilities.” • 918-207-3825


05/21/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Emergency Medical Services paramedic training program is now considered one of the best training programs in the industry. According to a CN press release, the CN is the only tribe to receive a five-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs for teaching paramedics to the highest national standards. The accreditation runs to March 31, 2020. “We are the only training center in this part of Oklahoma that offers paramedic training. So our goal is to offer the highest level of education to our students,” EMS Training Supervisor Mark Bighorse said. “We believe the standards of the accreditation process help us do that.” CAAHEP is a nonprofit accrediting organization established in 1994. It currently accredits more than 2,100 entry-level education programs within 26 health science professions. The CN EMS had to submit its study plans, teaching curriculum and complete interviews with the accrediting agency and attend required conferences to obtain the accreditation. The press release states that CN’s EMS is one of 10 Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic programs accredited in Oklahoma. Its ambulance services ranks in the top 1 percent in the country. CN EMS trains up to 20 students per year for the tribe and outside agencies. “We are excited to receive the accreditation because it allows us to continue with our program,” Dana Caviness, CN EMS director, said. “Having the accreditation holds our program to a higher standard and makes us more competent.” The paramedic-training program lasts for 18 months. This year’s program began in February and students are expected to graduate next April. Students will receive a certificate that gives them the opportunity to take the national registry test for paramedics after they complete the program. CN EMS consists of paramedic ambulance services, which is affiliated with a 911 communications staff and a certified training center. It employs approximately 60 staff members and has four ambulances active at all times. CN EMS has a coverage area of more than 1,000 square miles and responded to more than 4,700 emergency calls in 2014. For more information call, 918-453-5200 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Special Correspondent
05/07/2015 08:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. – More than 250 area residents came out April 4 to get a glimpse of the Cherokee Nation’s newest health center at its initial open house. Slated to officially open later in May, Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials cut the ribbon on the Cooweescoowee Health Center, located two miles west of U.S. 75 along W. 2900 Road in southern Washington County. Designed by Selser Shaefer and built by Cherokee Nation Construction Resources, the 28,000 square-foot facility has 10 examination rooms and will offer family medicine, physical therapy, full lab services, optometry, five dental exam spaces, behavioral health, a pharmacy with drive-through service, radiology and disease prevention services. Once open, the center will replace the tribe’s 5,000-square-foot clinic in Bartlesville, which saw 23,000 patient visits in 2014. The 11 Bartlesville employees will move to the Ochelata facility, along with 20 new employees. “This will duplicate what we have available to Cherokee Nation citizens at our other clinics,” Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said. “We want it to equal for all and for our folks to get the same quality of care here that they’d get at Tahlequah or Stilwell or Sallisaw.” Named for former Principal Chief John Ross and the old historical district in the northwestern corner of the tribe’s jurisdiction, the clinic’s walls feature plaques of each former CN chief and pictures of the region dating back to the 19th century. The lobby’s north side has a mural featuring the last names of Cooweescoowee district residents, according to the 1880 census, while a nearby wall map has an etching of the original allotments for what is now Washington, Nowata and Rogers counties. “We owe this to the people who came before us,” Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said. “We’ve all known someone or lost someone who didn’t life a full lifespan because of poor health care. This will hopefully keep that from happening again.” The $10 million project was wholly funded through casino profits as part of a more than a $100 million health care system expansion announced in 2013. Also included in the casino-funded push are a new facility in Jay, an addition at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah and expansions at Stilwell’s Wilma P. Mankiller Clinic and Redbird Smith Clinic in Stilwell. “We didn’t mortgage our education or contract health funds to build this,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said before a standing-room-only crowd. “We built it with cash.”
05/06/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Gadugi Clinic west of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex will have the mammogram bus available on May 8. “If you have health insurance and would like to schedule an appointment, please call the clinic,” said Joanna McDaniel, manager of Health Operations at Gadugi Health Center. The American Cancer Society recommends that women over the age of 40 have a mammogram yearly, she added. “The Oklahoma Breast Care Center sends their mobile mammogram unit to our clinic 3-4 times a year to perform mammograms on our patients,” McDaniel said. “OBCC provides this service at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. If patients are interested, they should call the clinic at 918-207-4911 to answer a few screening questions.” In addition to May 8, the MMU is scheduled to come Aug. 11 and Dec. 9.
04/24/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced April 13 the award of 20 contracts for the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury. Originally slated to end in 2014, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 extended this program through October 2017. “We are pleased to extend this valuable program and provide specialized assisted living services to eligible veterans with traumatic brain injury that will enhance their rehabilitation, quality of life and community integration,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA’s interim under secretary for health. “TBI is one of the prevalent wounds of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and VA remains committed to taking care of those Veterans suffering from TBI.” Under the AL-TBI program, veterans meeting the eligibility criteria are placed in private sector TBI residential care facilities specializing in neurobehavioral rehabilitation. The program offers team-based care and assistance in areas such as speech, memory and mobility. Approximately 202 veterans participated in the AL-TBI Pilot Program in 47 facilities located in 22 states. Currently, 101 veterans participate in the pilot as VA continues to accept new eligible patients into the program. In October, VA issued a request for proposal for vendors wishing to participate in the program. In accordance with the RFP, VA has awarded 20 contracts to facilities located in 27 states. The contracts went into effect on April 1, 2015. The program is currently effective through October 2017, in accordance with VACAA. For more information about the TBI program, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For information about VA’s work to implement the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, see <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
04/11/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the State Department of Health would be directed by Senate Bill 250 to collaborate on development of goals for reducing the incidence of diabetes in Oklahoma. The measure received overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature. The House of Representatives passed the bill, 67-18, on April 2, and the Senate approved it, 39-4, on March 5. The bill was supported by 23 House Democrats, including Reps. Will Fourkiller (Cherokee Nation citizen) of Stilwell, Claudia Griffith of Norman and Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City, all of whom are members of the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Health; Rep. Jeannie McDaniel of Tulsa, a member of the House Committee on Public Health who also co-authored the measure; and House Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City. The goals suggested in SB 250 would include improvements in health care services and prevention services, better procedures to control complications, and statistics, including the financial impact of diabetes and the number of Oklahomans afflicted with the disease. According to the State Health Department, more than 329,000 Oklahomans 18 and older were diagnosed with diabetes in 2012; Oklahoma ranked ninth in the nation in 2012 for the percentage of the adult population diagnosed with diabetes; the percent of the adult population being diagnosed with diabetes has been growing at a faster rate in Oklahoma than in the nation; and nearly one in every four senior citizens (65 years and older) in Oklahoma has been diagnosed with diabetes. Also, Oklahoma’s Native Americans have been diagnosed more frequently, and die from diabetes at the highest rate of any other race or ethnic group in this state. Diagnosis rates include American Indians, 16.4 percent; African Americans, 12.3 percent; Caucasians, 11.6 percent; multiracial individuals, 9.5 percent; and Hispanic, 7.6 percent. During the past decade, hospital admissions for diabetes increased 21 percent, and Oklahoma adults reported the sixth-highest percentage of obesity–a key risk factor for diabetes–in the nation in 2012. The national average was 28.1 percent; Oklahoma’s rate was 32.2 percent.
04/05/2015 08:00 AM
SALINA, Okla. – A Cherokee Nation doctor is being recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of 30 “champions” across the nation for saving lives by lowering the blood pressure of at least 70 percent of his patients. Dr. Brett Gray, a physician at the CN’s A-Mo Health Center in Salina, is a 2014 Million Hearts Hypertension Control Challenge Champion. The Million Hearts initiative was launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011 with the intent to prevent one million heart attacks by 2017. It also identified doctors making sweeping change. The CN employs 166 doctors in its eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital. The tribe held a proclamation signing March 30 on National Doctors’ Day at Hastings to thank all CN doctors for their service to CN citizens. “I feel honored to get the award and be recognized for the kind of medicine that we’re trying to practice as a team, to improve lives not only for patients with hypertension, but other health issues as well,” Gray said. “I’m really honored that my name is on the award, but I also want to make sure that the credit goes where it’s due. This has always been a team effort.” Gray and his team of nurses have a patient success rate of 81.2 percent of controlled hypertension, which is when a patient maintains a healthy blood pressure, lowering the chance for cardiovascular complications. “For years the government has measured the quality of our health facilities’ success, and the Cherokee Nation continues to lead the nation in their quality scores,” said Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said. “This recognition of Dr. Gray, who is a leader here at the tribe among his peers, is very deserving and another example of how the Cherokee Nation reaches its high quality scores.” High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, and keeping levels regulated has been proven to save lives. Gray is credited with more frequent patient follow-ups and trying to keep patients with a routine team of practioners. “My case manager follows up with people and keeps everything together. Our LPN is well liked by the patients, so she’s always encouraging and educating them. Our clerk keeps our hectic schedules in order. And another nurse at the health center will get our patients in sooner to check on their blood pressure and let us know if we need to make any adjustments. This team approach has gotten us to the level we’re at now,” he said. Gray, of Pryor, started at the CN in 2000 after having a practice. In February, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate recognized him as the “Doctor of the Day” during CN Legislative Day. The Million Hearts initiative is led by the CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information or to make an appointment, call the A-Mo Health Center at 918-434-8500.