Radiology technician Mandy Tucker explains how the new LOGIQ ultrasound and echo machine works on Nov. 5 at the tribe’s new Vinita Health Center in Vinita, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Vinita Health Center officially opens its doors

Charlie Ferguson, laboratory supervisor, talks about the different equipment available in the new lab, including this machine that’s used to check hemoglobin A1c tests among other blood tests from patients, at the new Vinita Health Center in Vinita, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation Health Services Director Connie Davis discusses the positive impact the Vinita Health Center will have on CN citizens in the area during a Nov. 5 grand opening for the center. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Charlie Ferguson, laboratory supervisor, talks about the different equipment available in the new lab, including this machine that’s used to check hemoglobin A1c tests among other blood tests from patients, at the new Vinita Health Center in Vinita, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY JAMI MURPHY
11/13/2012 08:52 AM
VINITA, Okla. – Although it’s been taking patients since Sept. 4, Cherokee Nation officials and area residents gathered on Nov. 5 at the tribe’s new Vinita Health Center for its grand opening.

After remarks from CN officials, people were given tours of the $35 million clinic located at 27371 S. 4410 Road. The 92,000-square-foot facility is equipped for primary care, including a full pharmacy, lab, radiology and dental, as well as optometry services.

According to CN Communications, the previous tribal clinic in Vinita was a 4,000-square-foot facility. However, the new center means more doctors and services offered to the area.

Prior to the event, Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the Vinita Health Center’s construction would mean a lot to area CN citizens.

“It puts a clinic in the northeastern portion of the Cherokee Nation,” Baker said. “Since doing the soft opening (on Sept. 4), they’ve added over 500 new charts, and I think it will double and triple the services that we’re able to do up in this part of the Cherokee Nation.”

He added that the facility would take a burden off of CN citizens and other Native Americans who travel long distances to receive health care.

“I think we already found out that people are going to come in from Carthage, Mo., and Joplin, Mo., and from up in Kansas,” he said. “They’re Cherokees, but they haven’t had a facility to come to and now that we got it, I think they’re going to come.”

The grand opening was held in the center’s community gathering space, which can be rented for meetings and family gatherings starting at $25 with a $100 deposit, not including kitchen space.

Health Services Director Connie Davis said the Vinita Health Center’s staff is committed to its patients.

“It’s very clear that the people that are here working are not here for the money because they could make a lot more money driving about 70 miles down the road,” Davis said. “The people here are committed to serving the people and that’s the most important thing. I think that should give you a vote of confidence when you come in here they’re not here because it was a last choice.”

Dist. 4 Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. also commended the tribe’s new facility.

“Well it is a wonderful day to be a Cherokee in Vinita, Okla., ” he said. “Cherokees built this community, they’re still building it today.”

CN officials said the new clinic should bring 125 jobs, with more than 90 percent of those hired being Cherokee. They added that the Vinita Health Center is just a beginning to the improvements they plan to make to CN health facilities. In October, the Tribal Council approved a plan to raise about $80 million to expand or replace health centers and the W.W. Hastings Hospital.

Other facilities to be replaced or renovated are the Bartlesville Health Center, Sam Hider Community Health Center in Jay, Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw, Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and the Jack Brown Center in Tahlequah.

jami-custer@cherokee.org


918-453-5560

About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

Health

BY JAMI MURPHY
09/23/2014 09:48 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program will host three community health fairs in the month of October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Cherokee Nation Breast and Cervical Cancer Detection Program decided to make these communities aware of the importance of having a well woman’s examination and if over age 39 an annual mammogram,” Barbara Neal, CN Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program public health educator, said. According to <a href="http://www.breastcancer.org" target="_blank">breastcancer.org</a>, in 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with 64,640 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. “Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30 percent of cancers in women are breast cancer,” the site states. “White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. However, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.” The three health fairs dedicated to this disease will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Oct. 2 at the community building in Jay, 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 16 at the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 21 at the A-mo Health Center in Salina. “We want to make sure our Cherokee Nation communities know the facts so they can make an informed decision about their health,” Neal said. She added that one in eight women would be diagnosed with breast cancer at least once in their lifetime. Neal said getting the knowledge out there about breast cancer and how to detect it is important not only to women, but to men, too. “Men can get breast cancer too. One percent of men will have breast cancer,” she said. “So early detection is the key to survivorship.” The health fairs will have educational materials for men and women with regards to their health. Neal said CN programs will set up tables and hand out information. “There will be companies from each community that will set up a table also and hand out information such as home health,” she added. “They are community health fairs with an emphasis on breast cancer.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
09/16/2014 09:31 AM
CHICAGO (AP) – Hundreds of children in more than 10 states have been sickened by a severe respiratory illness that public health officials say may be caused by an uncommon virus similar to the germ that causes the common cold. Nearly 500 children have been treated at one hospital alone – Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Mo., – and some required intensive care, according to authorities. The suspected germ, enterovirus 68, is an uncommon strain of a very common family of viruses that typically hit from summertime through autumn. The virus can cause mild coldlike symptoms including runny noses, coughing and wheezing but Mark Pallansch, director of the viral diseases division at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this summer’s cases are unusually severe and include serious breathing problems. “It’s not highly unusual but we’re trying to understand what happened this year in terms of these noticeable and much larger clusters of severe respiratory disease,” Pallansch said. The virus typically causes illness lasting about a week and most children recover with no lasting problems. Cases have been confirmed in Missouri and Illinois. CDC said it is testing to see if the virus caused respiratory illnesses reported in children in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah. The states’ tally changes as specimens are confirmed or test negative. A spokeswoman for Iowa’s public health department said CDC tests confirmed the virus in samples from patients in central Iowa and a Colorado hospital said it has confirmed cases. The CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said at a Monday news briefing that there are other viruses making kids sick. “Most of the runny noses out there are not going to be turning into this,” she said. Children with asthma and other health problems are especially at risk for the enterovirus, but reported cases include children without asthma who have developed asthmalike breathing problems, Pallansch said. He said no deaths have been reported in the outbreak. Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy, said local cases began appearing in mid-August and they appear to have peaked in her area. Schuchat said the strain involved also appeared in the United States last year and in specimens from other countries. She said the CDC learned it had reappeared in this country last month when authorities in Chicago and Kansas City notified the agency about severe illnesses in children who had to be hospitalized. She said the virus was found in 11 of 14 specimens from Chicago and in 19 of 22 specimens from Missouri. In the Denver area, more than 900 children were treated for severe respiratory illnesses at Children’s Hospital Colorado and its urgent care locations and 86 were hospitalized in recent weeks. Spokeswoman Melissa Vizcarra said Monday that CDC had confirmed the virus in 19 of 25 samples from her hospital. The University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital has treated several cases, including extremely sick children requiring life-support machines, said Dr. Rachel Wolfson, an intensive care unit physician. Affected children are “as small as infants all the way up to teenagers,” Wolfson said. The virus can spread through sneezing and experts say good hand-washing practices are important to curb transmission. “The take-home point is wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face,” Wolfson said.
BY JAMI MURPHY
09/16/2014 08:08 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In August, the Cherokee Nation began a phone survey focusing on tobacco use within the tribe’s jurisdictional service area. Dr. David Gahn, CN public health surveillance coordinator, said the survey is taken from the Centers for Disease Control and is specific to American Indians. “And we’ve done it in Cherokee Nation before,” he said. “The main purpose is to document and track tobacco use among Cherokee adults in the TJSA.” Participants were randomly selected from a list of Cherokee adults in each county within the TJSA. “So, we used to survey the TJSA as a whole, and this year to get a better understanding of each county individually, we have a list of Cherokee adults from each county and we do our statistics based on each county,” Gahn said. “So instead of 600 to 700 people being surveyed it’s going to be about 4,200 people being surveyed so we can compare counties to see where we need to work.” Phone numbers were shared through the tribe’s health care database. CN Health Services works off one database that encompasses the entire jurisdictional area. “So there’s no Salina clinic database, it’s all just one. So I can ask the database ‘give me a list of every Cherokee adult in Mayes County’ and then ask the same database question about each county,” Gahn said. The database is based all on whether the person is Cherokee and lives in the jurisdiction. “So the way our health care database works is that if you’ve used our health system anytime, then you’re in the database,” he said.” And we’ve found in the past on some other projects that our health care database is more up to date than the Registration database.” Shawn Arthur, Inara Creative Solutions vice president, said participants can be assured that names and contact information are kept in a locked drawer so it is not tampered with. Once the survey is complete that information will be destroyed. Gahn said the goal is to more accurately estimate tobacco use within the jurisdiction. “The information primarily is going to be used to direct our programs and our policies. So we give it to our policy makers like Tribal Council, our public health programs, our clinical programs,” he said. “We can see if we’ve made any progress over the last several years.” The survey is to determine what areas of the CN need more services in regards to tobacco cessation. “Of all of our tobacco control programs, we don’t have enough money or people to do all the programs in all 14 counties, so we have to direct our limited resources to where the need is the most,” Gahn said. “So we also want to track to see if our programs and policies are doing any good. So over time we can track is the rate going up or down.” A survey was conducted in 2011, Gahn said, and from 2009 to 2011 there was no change in the smoking rate overall for Cherokee adults. Results from that survey found a drop in women of reproductive age using tobacco. Their rates dropped, but those surveyed were so few that they could not determine if the rates dropped due to programs offered by the tribe. Gahn said there must be a 15 percent rate of change to be able to determine whether or not a program made a difference. The 2014 survey began in August and will continue until late October or early November. Results will not be available until late spring. Inara Creative Solutions is a Tribal Employment Rights Office-certified vendor in Tahlequah. The business will continue to hire survey administrators until all positions are filled. Those interested can call Drew Trahms at 918-506-8587 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday or from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. Those interested must be 18 or older.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
09/15/2014 08:04 AM
SALINA, Okla. – Public art created for the Cherokee Nation’s A-mo Health Center by Cherokee artists Bill and Demos Glass was carefully delivered by crane to a prominent place in front of the clinic on Sept. 3. Though Bill insists Demos created the stainless steel “Prayer Feather,” Demos said he collaborated with his father to create the 8-foot, 2-inch tall and 24-inch wide piece. “Dad and I wanted to do this symbolic ‘Prayer Feather’ for our clinic in Salina because the staff is very friendly and courteous. We also wanted to do this in loving remembrance of my grandmother Jean Justice Glass, who was a trained Army nurse,” Demos said. “I primarily designed the feather, and he had a ceramics portion in it. The ceramic’s got an inset detail with a nice four (crossed) logs motif. It’s just our symbol for prayer.” The material used was fabricated stainless steel, so it began as a sheet of steel that had to be cut and welded. Demos said he and his dad spent the past five months working on it and that working with stainless steel is challenging. “It’s not going to let you do everything, so you got to use a lot of manipulation,” he said. He said after the piece was welded together, he hand polished it, which can sometimes take months. “I’m still planning and trying to get some of the time cut down in different processes, so I’m always researching. That’s what my whole philosophy is on art. I’m a contemporary artist, and I’m going to continue to research the boundaries of what I can do because it’s exciting to me,” Demos said. “I think the Southeastern designs are the perfect platform to use fabrication techniques.” He said it is a benefit to use the minimalist, and sometimes intricate, designs of Southeastern designs and art used by Cherokee people in ancient times. Gina Olaya, Cherokee Nation Businesses director of cultural art procurement, said the Glasses were commissioned to do the “Prayer Feather” for the clinic. “Bill Glass is a patient at the Salina Clinic. He thought it would be good to have some place where people could actually say a prayer as they’re walking into the building, so that’s how the idea for the ‘Prayer Feather’ sculpture started,” she said. “I’m excited about this. I’m excited for the clinic.” Olaya said there is a CN law that allows for 1 percent of construction or renovation funding to be set aside to procure Cherokee art for the tribal building being constructed or renovated. “We had some money left over from a couple of projects that we pulled together, and those leftover funds are what’s funding these “Prayer Feather” sculpture projects,” Olaya said. Three “Prayer Feathers” are being created at a cost of $76,000. A second “Prayer Feather” will be placed at the renovated Redbird Smith Clinic in Sallisaw, and a third one will be placed at the new W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah when it is constructed. “The overall design of it will be the same, but the tiling that the Glasses are putting on the bottom of the sculpture will be different at each one of the facilities,” she said. Olaya said she would work with the Glasses to determine the wording for the plaques that will be placed at the bottom of the three sculptures to explain the artwork. CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said the sculpture is “absolutely beautiful.” “I think the important thing is that a patient here was inspired and felt like they wanted to contribute something to the clinic,” she said. “Mr. Glass spoke of how he appreciated the care the staff here delivered to him and his family, and I think that just shows the tightness of this community and how well the staff does take care of its patients.” Demos studied metalsmithing and sculpture at the University of Southern Illinois. He shares an art studio with Bill in Locust Grove, located south of Salina. Demos said he and his father put their thoughts together to come up with an idea that represented prayer. “We know that when you go through the health care system sometimes you’re not really looking forward to going there, so we just thought it would be a nice thing,” Demos said. “Public art can affect people just by walking by it, we believe. So, that’s what we are trying to do. We’re trying to create good feelings here.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/09/2014 02:57 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Healthy Nation will offer a smoke cessation class on Oct. 1 that is open and free to the public. Those interested must register for the class by Sept. 25. It’s a six-week class meeting at 5:30 p.m. each Wednesday at the CN Field Office located at 23205 Highway 66. Nicotine Replacement Therapy will not be provided in class, according to a release. “To receive Nicotine Replacement Therapy, participants must see their physicians,” the release states. For more information, call Misty Crittenden 918-575-6062 or email <a href="mailto: misty-crittenden@cherokee.org">misty-crittenden@cherokee.org</a>.
BY JAMI MURPHY
08/26/2014 08:54 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials celebrated the opening of Redbird Smith Health Center’s main building on Aug. 13 after it underwent a remodel the past two years because of mold found inside. Clinical Director Jerry Caughman said the remodel means a lot to him because he grew up in Sallisaw and is a CN citizen. “I’m not only an employee here, I’m from Sallisaw. Both sides of my family, they’re from Sallisaw and we have been 100-plus years,” he said. “So these people that come to this clinic, they’re not only patients of mine, but they’re my friends and family. And so this means more than anyone can ever know.” The building was closed in 2012, and its patient services were moved to different parts of the health center after the mold was discovered. The building was gutted, said CN Communications officials, with the use of Indian Health Services funds. The building cost $4.4 million to remodel and will house dental, administration, a fitness area and public health nursing. Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said the tribe’s administration, Tribal Council and Health Services have made the expansion of health services a priority. “The Redbird Smith renovation and expansion will not only serve more patients, but also offer programs such as mammography and physical therapy that patients normally would have to be referred to Tahlequah or other health centers to get,” she said. “I’m very proud of this expansion, and it’s just the first of many more to come for our overall health centers.” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fulbright said the new services the facility will offer is something she and patients have waited a long time for. “I’ve been on the council seven years and one of things I really, really wanted when I got on the council was a dialysis center. It took four years, but we accomplished that and helped so many people,” she said. “We’ve got top notch care for our people. When they come here they can rest assured they’re getting some of the finest.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said “citizens deserve world-class care” and the expansions and remodels represent that. “This will ensure we offer treatment as effectively and efficiently as possible when patients come for health care services. This is the most important long-term investment we can make as a tribal government,” he said. “More importantly, this expansion allows our health center to accommodate more people day in and day out.” A new annex is also being constructed behind the main building. When finished, the center will go from 33,000 square feet to more than 60,000 square feet. Its cost totals about $11 million, making the entire construction at Redbird Smith more than $15 million. The health center opened in 1992, according to CN Communications. In 2013, it served more than 100,000 patients. After renovations, that number is expected to rise.