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
Reporter
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.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
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 STAFF REPORTS
04/16/2015 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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/01/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - When the federal government proposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the main goal of the act was to give a boost to the American economy and to offer financial assistance in areas which are often hit by economic hardship, like education and infrastructure. Organizations and government bodies across the country applied for different grants, contracts and loans. Cherokee County was no exception. Cherokee County’s total recovery funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was over $90 million, according to data released by ProPublica. The U.S. Department of Education sent the most money into Cherokee County with over $23 million. While the government website dedicated to ARRA states more money in the county went to infrastructure than any other category, many Department of Education grants went to schools to “modernization, renovation or repair of public school facilities.” Many of these grants are considered State Fiscal Stabilization Fund grants, and they come in a wide range of amounts. The Briggs Public School district was awarded one of these grants for $798. Briggs also received another grant within this same fund for $11,847 as part of an allocation of over $105 million. The primary recipient of the allocation was the Executive Office of the State of Oklahoma, which still received over $55 million dollars – but the rest went to school districts across the state including schools in Grove, Jenks, Tulsa, Okmulgee and Elk City. Tahlequah Public Schools received two different grants from this allotment. Local schools, as well as Cherokee Nation, received money for preschool and Head Start programs. Cherokee Nation officials did not comment on any childcare grants the tribe received, but did provide information on the highway planning and infrastructure grants. “The federal stimulus grants helped the Cherokee Nation pave and repair 33 miles of roadway that improved the safety of our citizens and communities as a whole, as well as improved two bridges, one in disrepair in Mayes County and one in Sequoyah County,” a prepared statement said. Cherokee Nation received 36 ARRA grants and contracts, records show. Northeastern Oklahoma Community Health Centers, like many of the businesses and organizations that received funds in Cherokee County, was awarded four grants, but did not accept two of them that related to the Department of Agriculture. NeoHealth Chief Information Officer Mike McGavock said one of the grants, which was for over $500,000, was used to purchase equipment for their offices and EKG machines for their clinics. “It’s been great to have newer technology to treat our patients,” said McGavock. NeoHealth had to send patients with cardio issues to a local hospital before the system had its own EKG machine – which meant patients had to pay for another appointment at a different facility. The new office equipment was part of what was, at the time, a new federal regulation to have an Electronic Health Record System. “It’s basically the paperless medical charting,” said McGavock. Before this, files could be damaged or lost; but now, as long as they are backed up correctly, patient data will not be lost even during extreme weather conditions that might occur. Another grant, which was for just under $200,000, was to hire more providers to open another clinic. The grant paid for that employee for two years. It was the only new job position created due to NeoHealth’s grants.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/26/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Four of Cherokee Nation’s health centers, W.W. Hastings Hospital and the tribe’s entire Health Services have been deemed “Certified Healthy” by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw and Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell were recently selected among 1,700 winners of the Certified Healthy Oklahoma award for 2014. The designation for maintaining a healthy campus for employees is administered by the state, Oklahoma Academy, state chamber and Oklahoma Turning Point Council. “I believe it is important as a health department to set the example of making healthy choices,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “If we can create a work environment that not only encourages but supports these important changes in our lifestyle, then we have made a real impact on ensuring healthy generations to come.” Employees take advantage of fitness rooms, daily exercise and diet and nutrition classes offered at each of the sites. The tribe’s Early Childhood Unit was also recognized as “Certified Healthy” for providing a healthy nutrition policy for staff and Head Start children. The awards are given annually in six categories: businesses, restaurants, schools, campuses, early care and education and congregation. “All of us are aware of the high costs associated with unhealthy habits, and because our employees work in the health care setting, it’s vital that the workplace be conducive to living a healthy lifestyle,” Brian Hail, W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO, said. “Having this recognition from the Oklahoma State Department of Health demonstrates our commitment to our employees’ well-being and our dedication to the vision of healthy communities for this and future generations.” The CN maintains an onsite health center to treat sick employees, the Gadugi Clinic, and employees and CN citizens have free access to the Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah, which offers a gym, weights and weekly boot camp, yoga and Zumba classes. “The Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program is a free statewide recognition program showcasing organizations and communities that are committed to making the healthy choice the easy choice,” Julie Dearing, manager of the Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program, said. “Oklahoma truly has a vision of creating healthier places to live, work, learn, play and pray. We are challenging all Oklahomans to eat better, move more and be tobacco-free, as well as implement policies to create healthy environments throughout our state.” For more information on Health Services, call 918-453-5657.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/16/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After spending nearly two months in West Africa helping fight the Ebola virus, Cherokee Nation citizen and registered nurse Dana Hayworth returned to work at the CN W.W. Hastings Hospital in early March and was greeted with a reception to welcome her back. Hayworth, of Claremore, is a commander for the U.S. Public Health Service and volunteered to serve in Liberia, one of the most severely affected countries in West Africa. She spent 59 days between December and February with the Monrovia Medical Unit, providing clinical care for health care workers who may have contracted the Ebola disease while fighting it. She provided intravenous hydration, medication, blood products and nutrition to workers on the front line. “Going to Liberia was a rare chance to experience a different country and culture, while at the same time being part of the U.S. Public Health Service’s worldwide effort to contain Ebola,” Hayworth said. “Like our Native people, the Liberian people have a lot of strong ties to culture, customs, family and community. They took care of each other. It was awesome to see their resiliency in the face of this horrible disease.” Ebola spreads through human-to-human contact, with an average fatality rate of 50 percent. Symptoms range from sudden fever, fatigue and muscle pain to impaired kidney and liver function, according to the World Health Organization. Hayworth returned to Oklahoma in early February and spent 21 days at home with limited contact before returning to work March 2. Hayworth has been employed at Hastings Hospital for 10 years and works in the occupational therapy department. “We’re very glad to have Dana back safely, and we’re looking forward to putting her back to work and implementing some of the things she learned in Liberia,” Hastings CEO Brian Hail said. “We can’t train our staff on the types of conditions she was working in, so the experiences and the knowledge base that she has brought back to us is invaluable for working with people in a truly underserved population.” Hayworth said she plans to use her experience by preparing the CN on steps to fight Ebola in the chance that the virus should ever reach northeast Oklahoma. Two other CN citizens working in the Monrovia Medical Unit also joined Hayworth. Lt. Cmdr. Julie Erb-Alvarez, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Public Health Service Oklahoma City area office, and Capt. Kevin Brooks, a pharmacist from White River, Arizona, played key roles in the unit as well. The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Commissioned Corps is an elite uniformed service with more than 6,800 full-time, public health professionals serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations domestically and abroad. The U.S. Public Health Service is one of the seven uniformed services and is the only committed to protecting, promoting and advancing the health and safety of the nation. Officers often serve on the front lines in public health emergency and crisis situations both foreign and domestic including 9/11, Anthrax attacks, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and Superstorm Sandy.