Cherokee Nation joins nursing education endeavor

07/12/2019 10:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Northeastern State University President Steve Turner talks about a partnership with the Cherokee Nation, Northeastern Health System and Connors State College for a satellite nursing program on July 8 as CSC President Ronald Ramming listens. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs a partnership agreement July 8 that creates a satellite Connors State College nursing program at Northeastern State University. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Northeastern Health System President and CEO Brian Woodliff helps announce a new satellite nursing program July 8 at the Northeastern State University campus. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation has joined a venture with health and educational institutions to launch a satellite nursing program in Tahlequah.

The tribe, along with Northeastern State University, Connors State College and Northeastern Health System, formally signed the agreement July 8. Under the terms, NSU will provide space at its Tahlequah campus for CSC’s associate of applied science in nursing program. The CN and NHS will each fund faculty positions.

“This is another opportunity for us to grow our own nurses right here in the capital of the Cherokee Nation,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I couldn’t be any prouder. I think it is going to be something that is lasting and life-changing. With all the expansions going on, there is going to be so many opportunities for our young people to serve their families, serve this community and other communities.”

In May, Baker helped break ground on the first medical school on tribal land in the country thanks to a partnership with Oklahoma State University. The 84,000-square-foot OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah 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 new nursing partnership was signed at the Gregg Wadley College of Science & Health Professions Building at NSU.

“Chief Baker has a saying when he meets with his leadership — ‘Let’s find a way to get to yes’ — and that’s what happened,” NHS President and CEO Brian Woodliff said.

NSU President Steve Turner said the effort began Feb. 14.

“Northeastern State appreciates good partnerships,” he said. “Today is a day when we came together, really and truly, as higher education to meet a significant workforce demand. Public higher education can be responsible for local workforce needs. A lot of folks have worked hard to make this happen.”

CSC, located in Warner and Muskogee, was represented by its president, Ronald Ramming, who said he believed the partnership would “prove to be an excellent example of how the public, private and tribal sectors can work together to address critical workforce needs.”

“We’re truly excited to be able to extend this nursing program into the Tahlequah area,” Ramming said. “Oklahoma ranks at the bottom nationally in almost any health care metric. A significant contributing factor to that is this critical shortage of registered nurses in the state and nationwide. If we truly aspire to be a top-10 state, then not only do we have to focus on the skilled workforce, but we have to take care of our people.”
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