http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation citizen Dr. Cerissa Key has been practicing medicine for nearly eight years. Key received her doctorate of osteopathic medicine from Oklahoma State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2009. She is also a board-certified pediatrician. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Dr. Cerissa Key has been practicing medicine for nearly eight years. Key received her doctorate of osteopathic medicine from Oklahoma State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2009. She is also a board-certified pediatrician. COURTESY

Key makes difference as pediatrician

Dr. Cerissa Key
Dr. Cerissa Key
02/20/2018 08:00 AM
MOORE – Cerissa Key, a Cherokee Nation citizen and osteopathic medicine doctor, learned at an early age how much of a difference doctors can make in a child’s life. Now Key is making a difference in children’s lives as a pediatrician.

As a child, Key underwent eye surgeries, which sparked her interest in medicine.

“I really loved math and science, and I really loved kids, so at first I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Then in high school I joined the pre-med society, and I thought ‘this is what I am going to do,’” Key said.

She graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northeastern State University. In 2009, she graduated from Oklahoma State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Key then began a three-year residency at Oklahoma State University Medical Center and St. Francis Children’s Hospital in Tulsa in which she spent “many long hours” learning pediatrics.

“I rotated through many pediatric specialties like cardiology, pulmonology, surgery and ER, just learning everything there is to know about pediatrics,” Key said.

As part of her Indian Health Services scholarship obligation, Key worked in pediatrics for the Absentee Shawnee Health Center in Norman for four years. After that, she worked for Kids First Urgent Care in Oklahoma City. She said working for Kids First allowed her to spend more time with her family.

Key and her husband, Stephen, have three children. She said having a family and a career as a physician is challenging, but it’s all about “balance.”

“It’s hard. I am not going to lie. But it’s about balance being a full-time working mom and being able to separate that and know that I am doing my best on both ends and not feeling guilty or selfish if I need that time with my family, or guilty or selfish if I need that time to finish my charts and be the best doctor,” she said. “I just think it is important to be able to compartmentalize work and home. So when I am home I am mom, and when I am at work I am doctor.”

Although being a physician comes with challenges and sacrifices, she said helping children reminds her why she chose her career.

“While I was working at the urgent care I actually saw a kiddo and she looked really good. But something about her was off to me. So I got a chest X-ray on her and she ended up having a huge heart issue, and had I not gotten that chest X-ray taken care of she would of likely died. But now she is alive because I caught that, and that really is a proud moment,” Key said.

Key now works in pediatrics at Mercy Clinic Primary Care in Moore.

“I am in a great group of physicians. We get along really well, and everyone is nice here. They’re also Catholic, and I am Christian, so it’s nice here at my front work place because they pray before we eat and they’ll pray before a meeting,” she said. “So its nice that here I am allowed to share my faith with my patients and not fear getting in trouble over it.”

She also said her Cherokee heritage is important, and working for Mercy she is able to express that and connect with her patients.

“I love being Native, and my heritage is very important to me. Even my stethoscope is beaded, which I love, and everyone asks me about it, so I get to tell them that I am Cherokee,” she said. “And I think that kids are really interested in that and there are a lot of Natives in this area, too. Even though I am working for Mercy I think they are able to relate to that, and it’s a proud thing to see a doctor that is also Native.”


03/17/2018 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Northeastern State University Fishing Team will host a fishing seminar from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. on March 27 in the University Center Room 204. The seminar will feature professional anglers Jason Christie, a Cherokee Nation citizen, Tommy Biffle and Chris Jones. There will be question-and-answer sessions with the professionals followed by a time for high school anglers to ask about college fishing and competing after high school. Blayke Haggard, NSU Fishing Team vice president, said the featured speakers are well-known professional anglers. “All three that we have chosen are from Oklahoma as well, so they are very popular around here. We wanted to organize the event in order to get people to learn things about fishing from some of the best professionals in the sport.” The seminar is free to attend and open to the public. Attendees will receive a ticket for door prize drawings.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/14/2018 08:00 AM
SALLISAW – With two weeks under their belts, high school students are learning the ins and outs of ACT test taking during a six-week ACT Prep Class at Carl Albert State College’s Sallisaw campus conducted by the Cherokee Nation Foundation. Jennifer Sandoval, CNF program coordinator, said the CNF has offered the free class for several years because it helps students get a look into the ACT before taking the exam. She said with 35 students in attendance this is the biggest class yet. “We offer it at this campus so that way it reaches all of the surrounding high schools,” she said. “They’re able to come here after school and get that kind of one-on-one prep with an instructor.” Students have two chances to take the six-week class, once in the fall and the other in the spring. Sandoval said the CNF also offers a weeklong summer program. While in class, Sandoval said students take an ACT pre-test before jumping into the course. “We like to get them familiar with it, and then we have them take a mid-test in the middle of the classes. That way they can practice what they’ve learned so far,” she said. “We do basic introduction lessons at the beginning of the class, and then we kind of taper off into each subtest. We start off kind of slow then we intense up towards then, and then we taper off again so they’re ready for that test at the end.” Mikeesha Watts, a Vian High School junior, said she took Sandoval’s weeklong summer class and it helped raise her ACT score. “I met a lot of people up there. Still talk to them today, and they help me out a lot. Raised my score two points from my previous ACT so that’s good. Hopefully this class will help me more.” For other students looking to take an ACT prep class, Watts said Sandoval is a good teacher with whom to do so. “Jennifer, she’s a great teacher. She’s worth every second of coming to a class.” Sandoval said this class is important because it helps most students get a “leg up” on the exam. “Most students don’t have the opportunity to prep for the ACT for free, and so because college is such a big deal, and the ACT is the entrance exam to get to college, we just feel like it’s getting them a step ahead of most students and getting them a leg up on the ACT,” she said. When taking the ACT, Sandoval said one strategy is to never leave anything blank. “So our guessing strategy that we use is what we call the letter of the day. If you ever have to guess on several different questions you just guess one letter,” she said. Sandoval said the class is free to CN citizens and citizens of federally recognized tribes. If a high school would like the CNF to offer an ACT Prep class, Sandoval said that’s something the foundation does. “We do two-hour workshops that high schools can request. We also have a two-day workshop that’s a partnership with the University of Arkansas, schools can request that as well,” she said. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
03/12/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Beginning with the summer 2018 semester, Northeastern State University students who enroll in summer courses may receive additional annual funding via the Pell Grant. The current maximum federal Pell Grant for an eligible student is $5,920 per academic year, unless enrolled for summer. With this increase, students can receive up to 150 percent of their Pell award for each academic year. NSU Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Danny Mabery said students can take advantage of the summer Pell program to continue their education during the summer months to ensure they complete 30 credit hours each year. “Summer Pell can help decrease the amount of time students’ spend obtaining a degree, allowing them to start their careers quicker,” Mabery said. To be eligible for a summer Pell Grant, students need to have completed a 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, be Pell Grant eligible, meet Satisfactory Academic Progress and have lifetime Pell Grant eligibility remaining. In most cases, students must be enrolled in six or more credits during the summer semester. NSU summer classes begin May 7. For more information, call 918-444-3456.
03/09/2018 12:00 PM
VONORE, Tenn. – The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum will offer beginner and advanced beginner Cherokee language classes from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 28 and April 4, 11, and 18. Cost is $50 for all four evenings. Gil Jackson and Lou Jackson, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians citizens, will teach the Wednesday classes. The museum is under renovation and is slated to reopen this summer with a new exhibit area. The language classes will be held in the Vonore Community Center on 611 Church St. until the museum’s education room reopens in the spring. The noted linguist Sequoyah, who invented and gave the Cherokee a written syllabary of the tribe’s language, was born near the museum site in 1776. The mission of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, a property of the EBCI, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the Cherokee history and culture in eastern Tennessee, particularly the life and contributions of Sequoyah. The museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits objects and data that support this mission. People interested in taking this class should call 423-884-6246 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> to register. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is located at 576 Highway 360.
03/07/2018 04:00 PM
DENVER – The American Indian College Fund has created an online research repository to further understanding about Native higher education, tribal colleges and universities and American Indian and Alaska Native students. The repository, located on the AICF’s web site, provides researchers and the public access to research the work the AICF and others do to support Native student success. The resource includes literature reviews, annotated bibliographies and fact sheets on selected topics. It also provides access to dissertations produced by faculty fellows supported by the AICF’s Mellon Career Enhancement Fellowship Program and historical documents the AICF fund has produced over the years. Also included are links to white papers and research conducted by other organizations pertinent to the Native higher education community and student success, including the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, National College Access Network, Penn Graduate School of Education’s Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, Gallup and the National Student Clearinghouse. The repository includes four categories of research: student impact, faculty impact, institutional impact and community impact. Access to research materials are free and open to the public on the college fund’s website at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. If you are aware of research in these four categories that you believe should be linked to this body of work in the research repository, call David Sanders, vice president of Research, Evaluation and Faculty Development, at 303-426-8900 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>. Founded in 1989, the AICF has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for more than 28 years. The fund believes “Education is the Answer” and provided 6,548 scholarships in 2017 totaling $7.6 million to American Indian students, with more than 125,000 scholarships totaling $100 million since its inception. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Reporter – @cp_bbennett &
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/07/2018 08:00 AM
TAHELQUAH – Community classes have started for those interested in learning how to read, write and speak the Cherokee language. The free classes take place every spring and fall for 10 weeks and are part of the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program. Its goal is to perpetuate the language “in all walks of life ranging from day to day conversation, ceremonially, as well as in online arenas such as social media.” Students learn from both first- and second-language speakers in communities within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Cherokee Phoenix recently spoke with several instructors to highlight their Cherokee backgrounds and discuss what students can expect in their classes. <strong>Are you a native Cherokee speaker? If not, when did you start learning the language?</strong> <strong>Rufus King:</strong>I was born and raised in a Cherokee language-speaking home. That was all I could speak when I was a kid. When they sent me to school, that’s all I knew was Cherokee, didn’t know a word of English. <strong>Helena McCoy:</strong> Cherokee is my first language. That’s why it’s so important for me that everybody else hears it. <strong>Lawrence Panther:</strong> Yes, Cherokee is my first language. I began to learn English when I started school at 6 years old. <strong>Sandra Turner:</strong> Yes, Cherokee was my first language. <strong>Lois Deason:</strong> Cherokee was my first language. <strong>When did you become a certified language instructor and why?</strong> <strong>King:</strong> I was certified to teach Cherokee language in 2001, I think it was. So that makes me about 16 years that I’ve been doing this all together. Different places around Jay mostly and Grove, but since we moved down here (Lost City) we picked it up over here now. I kind of feel home when I get here, and I think everybody else feels that way. <strong>McCoy:</strong> I went to the Cherokee Immersion (Charter School) and taught there for six and a half years. And then these classes came up, (CN Language Program Manager) Roy (Boney) I think it was, asked if I wanted to teach these adult classes and I said, ‘I’ll try it.’ It’s fun. We really have fun. <strong>Panther:</strong> I taught myself to read and write. Afterwards, I took the Cherokee language test and became a certified Cherokee language teacher in 2012. <strong>Turner:</strong> I became an instructor about 12 years ago and why – I told myself if I speak the language I should know how to read and write the language. So I took a class at the old jailhouse (in Tahlequah) with Anna Sixkiller as my instructor. <strong>Deason:</strong>I got my certification December 2016. <strong>Why are these classes important to teach in our Cherokee communities?</strong> <strong>King:</strong> Preserving our language is one thing because we are losing it, some of them say. There’s not that many speakers anymore here in Cherokee Nation. Last year they gave us an estimate. I thought about that myself trying to start from the north end and try to find out about how many fluent speakers that I could find. That would give me how many fluent speakers, the ones that you can talk to all day long. I think that’s why we need to preserve it. <strong>McCoy:</strong> Well like everybody says, it’s dying and it really is. I like teaching it. I think it’s important for people to hear it and understand it from a fluent speaker to teach them the correct sounds. <strong>Panther:</strong> Not only is our language (speaking) in dire need of revitalization, the written language needs to be addressed just as well. <strong>Turner:</strong> It is important to provide this service to the community members that want to learn the Cherokee language even if they learn very basic words using the (Cherokee) syllabary. <strong>Deason:</strong> Most of them will tell you that they have no one to teach them. So that’s why I decided to teach the Cherokee language. <strong>For those interested in taking your class, what can they expect to learn?</strong> <strong>King:</strong> I teach them the sounds of the syllabary, that is the most important too. To make them sound like they are supposed to be because if you don’t sound them out like the way they supposed to be, you’re words are not going to come out right, and nobody’s going to know what you’re saying. <strong>McCoy:</strong> I try to teach what they want to learn, that way they’ll be more interested in coming back. Just whatever they want to do, like breakfast foods or names for family. Come out one day and sit in. We won’t make you participate, but the only way you’re going to learn is by saying it (in Cherokee), so I just tell them to come on out. <strong>Panther:</strong> I will advocate the syllabary writing for my Cherokee classes. The syllabary chart discourages many learners and speakers. I will have hands-on activities including kinesthetic and tactile, auditory, visual and lecture analytically about the syllabary chart. This will help them utilize the knowledge of the syllabary. There are a lot of speakers who do not know how to read and write. I feel the need to reach out to them, including learners as well. It’s very important the teacher is adamant when it comes to teaching. <strong>Turner:</strong> So many people have seen the Cherokee syllabary but have never learned how to read the syllables. I use the format of teaching “What, Where, When, Why, Who and How.” The first night of class when I review the vowel sounds participants are amazed of making a full sentence using “??.” They cannot believe these two syllables make up the sentence, “a-i” which means “he or she is walking.” I also ask the participants if there are certain words they would really like to learn, and I also use their Cherokee names if they have one, and if not I will give them one to use in class or I will ask them to ask an elder if they do have a Cherokee name. <strong>Deason:</strong> They will learn about the syllabary chart to learn how to pronounce them. So they can learn how to pronounce Cherokee words a lot better. They would learn how to count in Cherokee, days of the week things like that, just basic things to start off with. For more information, call 918-453-5487. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here</a>to read the Cherokee language class schedule.