CN, OSU leaders tour largely completed med school
TAHLEQUAH – With the buzz of construction as a backdrop, leaders from both the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma State University on Oct. 14 toured their nearly finished, state-of-the-art medical college in Tahlequah.
“The purpose of this school is to train primary care physicians,” said Dr. William Pettit, dean of the new OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation. “We really focus on training our physicians to work in the area of primary care and to serve rural, underserved and now tribal nation health care initiatives. The big goal is to provide health care throughout the districts of the Cherokee Nation, as well as the state of Oklahoma.”
The 87,000-square-foot building, located on the W.W. Hastings Outpatient Health Center campus, is a joint project of the CN and OSU Center for Health and Sciences.
“The most exciting, progressive and important things happening in health care in Indian Country anywhere is happening on this campus, and that’s something that’s been years in the making,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “This is exciting. This is going to change health care for our people and help the whole region.”
The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation is an extension of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa. Construction began in 2018.
“This came about after really almost a decade of relationship building between the Cherokee Nation itself and the Oklahoma State University Center for Health and Sciences,” Pettit said. “We’re currently at a phase of construction where the basement is essentially done. The first floor is essentially in the process of being done. The second and third floors, which are for faculty, staff and student activities, are still in the process. However, the goal is that we’ll move in this December or late this year with hopes of starting our spring semester in January.”
The building features laboratories, lecture halls, classrooms, faculty offices, study areas and a gym. Although the COVID-19 outbreak delayed its finish, the college’s first 54 students were welcomed this summer, training for the most part remotely and also at the CN outpatient health clinic, Pettit said.
“They’ll graduate in four years. We have about 50-50 percentage of male and female,” he said. “We have some 33% diverse population and a good sampling of Oklahomans. We have a great opportunity already for a student to start in a rural medical school – the first tribally-affiliated medical school in the nation – and finish their training in the same environment rather than the urban-based programs in Oklahoma City or Tulsa.”