Ground broken for OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation

Senior Reporter
05/21/2019 04:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Bill John Baker introduces Dr. Kaye Shrum, president of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, during the May 20 groundbreaking for the 84,000-square-foot OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Officials for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma State University prepare to throw the first shovels of dirt during a May 20 groundbreaking for an osteopathic medical school in Tahlequah. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The 84,000 square-foot OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation will be located on the W.W. Hastings campus in Tahlequah. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – After much preparation and planning by Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma State University officials, the first shovels of dirt were officially turned on May 20 to build a medical school in Tahlequah.

CN and OSU officials broke ground to symbolize the start of construction on the 84,000-square-foot OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation.

“It truly is amazing what you can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “There were many moving parts, and many people in this audience had a great deal to do with making this a reality today.”

Baker, pointing to the decades during which recruiting doctors to rural practice has been problematic, said the school could offer medical students with small-town backgrounds an opportunity to have careers in proximity to their families and neighbors.

“Not all 50 doctors, each year, will be for the Cherokee Nation,” he said. “We need the other clinics supplied with quality doctors all over northeastern Oklahoma. OSU has a fantastic reputation for creating rural primary care physicians. It was a perfect marriage. They get an opportunity to almost double the size of their medical school, right here in the capital of the Cherokee Nation.”

Recalling the importance the Cherokees placed on education – creating male and female seminaries in the 1800s – and producing their own teachers, Baker said the medical school “is no different.”

“We are going to grow our own physicians right here in Indian Country at W.W. Hastings (Hospital), in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in a partnership with OSU,” he said.

OSU officials spoke of their enthusiasm to partner with the CN to open the facility, which will include a bookstore; medical surgery, pediatric, emergency room, and maternity/obstetric simulation labs; two lecture halls; and four learning labs.

“It’s unbelievable that we are here breaking ground on a facility that will transform health care in rural and tribal communities across our state,” Dr. Kayse Shrum, OSU Center for Health Sciences president, said. “Together, OSU and the Cherokee Nation have put in numerous hours planning and attending accreditation meetings to bring this to fruition. This groundbreaking is a proud moment in our shared history. It is yet another milestone placing us one step closer to the day when our vision will be a reality and 50 new medical students will walk through those doors in 2020.”

Dr. William Pettit, who will serve as the school’s dean, said “this is by far one of the proudest moments of my medical career.”

“The OSU College of Medicine-Cherokee Nation will lead the way in training primary care physicians for rural Oklahoma,” Pettit added. “Today is a new day for rural health. Starting next August, we will start training what we hope will be rural-minded medical students who share our passion for rural health.”

The campus will be on Hastings Hospital’s grounds. The institution also will be the first medical school on tribal land, with a tribal affiliation, in the U.S.

Room for construction is available south of Hastings Hospital, and room is also available in the southern part of the Hastings facility due to the $150 million expansion project to the east, which will be the site of outpatient services and encompass 469,000 square feet.

The facility will include state-of-the-art classrooms, lecture halls and cutting-edge technologies, including medical simulations, officials said.

The college is scheduled to open with 50 students in 2020. Once fully operational, the school is expected to serve 200 students. The first graduating class is expected in May 2024.

The school will include 16 full-time faculty, five part-time faculty and several adjunct clinical faculty, and hold certification from the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.
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