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
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.
VENTURA, Calif. – Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Teehee is a self-employed physician, practicing emergency medicine in Van Nuys. He also serves on the board of directors and is past medical of an Indian Health Service urban clinic.
As a child Teehee attended elementary school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, but was raised mostly in California after his parents moved there for work. He said he often visits Tahlequah and has relatives working at the CN W.W. Hastings Hospital there.
Teehee attended the University of California-Berkeley for his undergraduate degree before going to the University of California Los Angeles’ Charles Drew School of Medicine. He said he entered the medical field because he loves the science of the human body and the challenges that treating people bring.
“The opportunity to help people, fulfill an important role in society and be adequately compensated are a bonus,” he said. “I am fortunate to be in rare position as a Native physician. There are not many of us, hence I receive regular requests to assist on boards, work with nonprofits or maybe write an article. I usually prefer less attention, but try never to turn down a request to be of service to others. They seem to be well-liked and received, so I guess I will keep doing them when requested. I guess it gives my kids something to remember me by one day, and one never knows when the last opportunity will be to be an influence on others.”
He also serves on the board of directors of American Indian Health & Services in Santa Barbara and recently published his story in the American Indian Graduate Center Magazine’s fall edition.
Teehee is considered an independent contractor and sole corporation, but most of his work is done through Emergent Medical Associates with much of his time being spent at Valley Presbyterian Hospital Emergency Department in Van Nuys.
According to an article on Teehee in UCLA’s health magazine in 2014, he is one of 250 Native Americans actively practicing medicine in the United States.
“The part of medicine I am still most passionate about is the first challenging seconds of meeting an apprehensive patient who may be distrustful of doctors, receiving information through a translator or frightened by the uncertainty of their medical condition,” Teehee stated in the UCLA article. “I intentionally use words that will make the patient and family members comfortable and will give them confidence in the care they will receive. Often, I use humor. If I can get the patient to crack a smile, then the rest is easy.”
To read his biography published in the AIGC fall magazine visit <a href="http://www.aigcs.org/aigc-publications/the-american-indian-graduate-magazine-fall-2015/" target="_blank">http://www.aigcs.org/aigc-publications/the-american-indian-graduate-magazine-fall-2015/</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Joni Duffield, of Tahlequah, recently returned from Chicago where she ran in the annual Chicago Marathon on Oct. 11 along with 50,000 other runners.
The Cherokee Nation citizen has come a long way since she began running and exercising regularly five years ago to manage weight and relieve stress.
“My family has a significant history of diabetes. I have lost two paternal aunts and grandmother to complications of diabetes,” the CN Behavioral Health clinic administrator said. “I lost 15 pounds, but most of all my lifestyle changed. I changed the way I eat, the way I manage my stress and anxiety and the people I have in my life. They are all based around a positive lifestyle.”
She said there’s also a history of depression on her maternal side and that running is an outlet for life’s challenges and “has changed her life.”
“There is scientific evidence that regular exercise promotes self-confidence and defends against depression. I spend my runs talking with God and good friends about life and daily struggles. It has helped me through many life events such as divorce, death of loved ones and career demands that all can be overwhelming at times.”
She said her mother also began running two years ago and has managed her weight and depression.
“I entered Wings (through the CN Healthy Nation) runs with her and it has really had a positive change in her life, and she has fun. I try to encourage all my friends and family, not just to run, but to be healthy. I understand not everyone wants to run long miles or exercise daily, but exercising three to four days a week can change your life.”
She said the Wings program is a great way for someone to start walking or running by helping them start with walking and running in area 5K (3.1 miles) runs.
“I started running the 5Ks around Tahlequah. The Wings program is a great way to start,” she said.
She ran her first marathon in 2013 when she ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
“My running friend Lindsay Houston and I were both going through some challenging times. I was going through a divorce and wanted something to put my mind on to focus on the good things in life. We decided to enter the OKC marathon. It was truly a ‘we will see how it goes,’” Duffield said. “We have been hooked since. Since then, it’s just my life. I run five to six times a week 6 to 8 miles per day, early mornings at 4:30 a.m. It’s a great way to start my day.”
She has completed several half marathons (13.2 miles), a triathlon (run, bike and swim), dualthons (run and bike) and four marathons (26.2 miles) –Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C., and two Chicago Marathons. Her time at this year’s Chicago Marathon was 4:15, a 15-minute improvement compared to 2014.
“My marathons started as a bucket list that has grown into something I strive to do at least twice a year. It keeps me training daily and focused on my physical health.”
She said her “bucket list” marathons are the New York City Marathon and ones in Maui, Hawaii, and Paris. She said for 2016 she wants to run the Oklahoma City marathon in April and the New York City Marathon in October.
“As a Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health administrator and a Cherokee woman, I want people to know that we have to take care of ourselves and spend time daily with God and have time daily where we focus our mental wellness. The end result is physical fitness, which has its own array of health benefits.”
She also stressed that that she has not reached her running goals alone and thanked her running partners Lisa Pivec, Rebecca Grant, Missie Warner and Houston.
“I am fortunate to have other strong Cherokee women, who also work for the tribe, who run with me daily and are strength on days I don’t want to run. It is very important to have a support system and friends that run with you. It keeps you accountable.”
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Health Services is bringing in some outside assistance to lower – and potentially eliminate – the local hepatitis C rate.
Earlier this year, Health Services received a one-year, $1.5 million grant to fund a study on identifying and treating hepatitis C patients among northeastern Oklahoma’s Native American community.
Part of a partnership with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oklahoma Department of Health, the study will focus on surveillance and epidemiology.
According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. The virus is a blood-borne virus and the most common modes of infection are through unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilization of medical equipment and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
With positive results popping up across the tribe’s jurisdictional area, part of the funding will also go to increased staffing among the tribe’s health facilities to better address screening and treating the disease.
“The Cherokee Nation’s project is first project of its kind in the country to take on hepatitis C,” Dr. John Ward, the CDC’s director of viral hepatitis, said on Oct. 30 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Ward was the keynote speaker at a conference to discuss the tribe’s study. “It will obviously help people here, but will also help people elsewhere by providing a template to show how it’s done.”
Nationwide, there are an estimated 2.7 million people with the disease, which if left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure. Because the disease produces mild symptoms, if any, in the early stages, it is often not detected until liver damage becomes apparent.
With the virus able to survive on surfaces for up to three weeks, exposure to contaminated needles, either through intravenous drug use, medical procedures or piercings, is among the primary risk factors for the disease.
“Hepatitis C isn’t the problem,” Dr. Jorge Mera, director of infectious diseases for CN Health Services, said. “It’s the symptom of a bigger problem: intravenous drug use.”
Other risk factors included extended reliance on dialysis machines for blood filtration, receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, having unprotected sex with multiple partners, being born to a mother with the virus or being HIV-positive.
As part of the grant, Mera and other clinicians will examine what causal role, if any, tattooing, the second most common risk factor nationwide, plays in contracting the disease.
Since January 2014, CN clinics have treated 274 cases of hepatitis C with the lowest rates. About 60 percent of the patients are part of the Baby Boomer generation, those born 1946-65, compared to 75 percent of all hepatitis C patients nationwide.
Mera said his department estimates there are between 4,000 and 5,000 cases across the 14 counties, but have only screened less than a quarter of potential cases so far.
With a goal of testing 85 percent of the adult population, the grant also covers additional screening for CN citizens as young as 20 years old who think they might have the disease.
“We want to encourage people to come in and get tested,” Mera said. “If you belong to the Baby Boomer category, you definitely need to come in and get checked. That doesn’t mean that if you’re 72 and want to get screened that we won’t do it. Just come in, ask, and we will.”
According to a CN press release, with the funding and support of fellow health agencies, nearly 300 patients at the tribe’s W.W. Hastings Hospital identified with hepatitis C have been treated with shots, doctors said for 90 percent it was effective for curing the illness.
“We have close to 1,000 patients who have tested positive for the disease, and we have already treated nearly a quarter of those and are seeing a high success rate. Our hope is to eliminate this disease entirely in the Cherokee Nation,” Mera said.
Others attending were CDC’s director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS Jonathan Mermin, Oklahoma Department of Health Deputy Secretary Julie Cox-Kain, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Infectious Diseases Professor Douglas Drevets and OU Health Sciences Center Dean Gary Raskob.
JAY, Okla. – Competitors and those wanting to enjoy hot bowls of chili attended the second annual Chili Cook-off on Oct. 23 at the Jay Community Center, in which Cherokee Nation Sam Hider Health Center employees raised money for breast cancer awareness.
Janell Brixy, Women’s Health Cancer case manager, said the clinic hosts the cook-off in October because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and typically Oklahoma weather it’s nice and cool and fally (fall-like). And what’s better in the fall than a good bowl of chili?” Brixy said.
It cost $10 to register a competition chili and $6 got you a bowl of chili, crackers, dessert and drink. Those funds were to be used to buy educational material about breast cancer.
“We do this chili cook-off to help raise funds to purchase educational material for women in the community regarding breast cancer,” Brixy said. “We’re trying to get more people in through the clinic get educated so that hopefully we can help as many women as we possibly can.”
Brixy said it is important to spread breast cancer awareness “because breast cancer is the third-leading cause of (cancer) death in Native American women.”
“If we can get them educated, get them tested, get the mammograms done and save lives, that’s our whole goal,” she said. “We’re a matriarchal society. We’ve got to take care of our women, our mothers, our daughters, our children. That’s why it’s so important to get women in.”
Susie Strader and Tressa Scroggins said they participated in the cook-off not only for the cause but because in 2014 their chili placed first. Strader said the key is using fresh ground beef.
“It’s not store-bought beef. It’s butcher shop ground beef,” she said. “The ground beef, I think, was what did it.”
Strader said it was also important for her to promote breast cancer awareness because of two family members being diagnosed with the disease.
“I have an aunt who has had breast cancer and a cousin who has had breast cancer. My family, the females are fanatical about getting mammograms,” she said. “I think anyway people can learn about breast cancer and women’s health issues, the better they are.”
Strader said women should get mammograms at a younger age because her cousin learned of her breast cancer in her early 40s.
“I think they kind of changed when you should get your first mammogram, and I really think women should be younger because my cousin was in her early 40s when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer and had bilateral breast removed by the time she was in her late 40s,” she said. “My aunt was older. She was in her 60s. If it wasn’t for a mammogram they would not have known that they had breast cancer. Mammograms have saved two of my family members lives.”
On Oct. 20, the American Cancer Society issued guidelines recommending women receive yearly mammograms at 45 and until they turn 55. From there, it suggests women receive a mammogram every other year as long as their physicians deem them healthy. The previous guidelines recommended women begin yearly mammograms starting at 40.
According to the ACS, the new guidelines are for women considered average risk for breast cancer. Women considered to be high-risk for breast cancer either because of family history, a breast condition or another reason need to begin screening at a younger age and screened more often. The ACS suggests women speak with their medical providers to see what are the best routes to take.
As for the chili cook-off, Brixy said SHHC public health nursing supervisor Vicki Madha won first place and licensed practical nurse Lana Husong took second.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation nurses administered free influenza vaccinations to CN citizens and employees on Oct. 27 inside the Tribal Council Chambers at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
Patricia Hawk, CN Public Health Nurse administrator, said the event reflected a mission of “prevention,” and that the vaccines this year will protect against two strands of Type A flu viruses and one strand of the Type B flu virus.
“The vaccine introduces the dead virus into your body and it starts building up the antibodies and everything else that your body can pull together so that when the live one comes on board it’s already armored and ready to go,” Hawk said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the flu start one to four days after the virus enters the body and include cough, sore throat, fever, headaches, fatigue, muscle or body aches and a runny or stuffy nose.
The CDC cautions that adults and children with the flu can infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.
“Please, please get your flu shot,” Hawk said. “It’s so very important. It’s going to keep not only you but everyone else around you healthy because you’re not going to spread it to them.”
CN citizen Beverly Lawellin said she got vaccinated not only to protect herself from getting the flu, but to protect others.
“I started taking care of my ex-husband who is a cancer patient, and it was necessary that I take a flu shot (while) taking care of him when he was doing his chemotherapy and radiation,” she said. “I didn’t need to bring anything home to him with his immune system being so low, and now I’m kind of afraid to quit taking (the flu vaccine) because I might get the flu.”
Lawellin encouraged those who are scared of the flu but uneasy about getting vaccinated to have the same mentality of looking out for others.
“You could still be a carrier and give it to somebody else,” she said. “It could be an elderly person that doesn’t need the flu. You don’t know what’s wrong with the people passing you. You don’t know what they’re going through and their health issues. It’s an overall good thing for everybody.”
Officials said they had 360 vaccines on Oct. 27 to administer. CN nurses were also set to administer flu shots at Claremore Indian Hospital and W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. Officials said among the Claremore, Tribal Complex and Hastings sites, they could administer about 3,000 vaccinations.
An adult consent form or a pediatric consent form must be filled out prior to receiving the vaccine.
For more information, call Hawk at 918-453-5000, ext. 5844 or Debbie Hood at 918-453-5000, ext. 5841.
For more information on this year’s flu strains and vaccines, visit <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm" target="_blank">http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital recently hired a cardiologist and a new obstetrics and gynecology physician. Before, the hospital contracted with outside cardiologists during a monthly clinic held for consultations.
“Because we have such a great need for cardiology care in our community, Cherokee Nation Health Services leadership has been working for some time to recruit cardiologists who would work exclusively for our patients in our community, and that day is here,” W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail said. “With Dr. Arredondo’s arrival to Hastings, we have a highly qualified and dedicated cardiologist who will care for our patients every day right here at Hastings, and that’s something for all of us to be very happy about.”
Dr. Michael Arrendondo, cardiologist, earned his medical degree from the University of Minnesota and his bachelor’s degree in science from Cornell. He did his internal medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic Arizona campus. He served at the Banner-University Medical Center and Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, and most recently at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dr. Jazmin Baker, OB/GYN, received her doctorate of osteopathic medicine from Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in science from OSU. She did her internship and residency at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City where she served as the co-chief resident. She is a member of the American Osteopathic Association and the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“W.W. Hastings has steadily increased the number of babies delivered over the past few years and invested in remodeling the labor and delivery department to provide modernized, private accommodations that focus on the long-term health of both the mother and baby,” Hail said. “With Dr. Jazmin Baker’s addition to our Obstetrics and Gynecology medical staff, we are realizing our goal of having physicians with the advanced and dedicated training to provide the best care possible for our patients.”