Ceremony held as final beam placed for new Oklahoma State University-Cherokee Nation medical college
The final steel beam is lifted toward the structure that will become the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation, which will open in the fall of 2020. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Many attending the topping out ceremony affixed their signatures to the beam before it was set. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH — Gathering to observe a construction benchmark, tribal officials and administrators for the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences spoke of their collaboration and expectations for the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation, which will open in the fall of 2020 on the grounds of W.W. Hastings Hospital.
Completion of the girder structure was marked with the installation of the final steel beam, and the speakers addressed five of the first students to be admitted to the college and leaders representing tribal and government organizations and agencies.
“There are many ways we can measure what we are doing today,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. “It is a milestone, as we are on the way to completing this great facility….it is a $40 million investment. We can measure it that way. We can measure it in the 200 men and women who will grace this campus as students on their way to being doctors. But ultimately what matters is whether this changes the lives of the people that it is to serve, and we know that it will.”
The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation is the first tribally-affiliated medical school sited on tribal land in the United States. The $40 school will focus on the education of primary care physicians who have expressed a wish to serve Native and rural populations in Oklahoma. The first class is expected to number 50, and the school will have space and facilities for an enrollment of 200.
“Oklahoma’s health outcomes have suffered from the lack of access to primary care physicians,” said Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences. “The health and the lives of the Cherokee people and rural Oklahomans will be transformed as a result of the physicians who will graduate each year from the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation. My hope is that, as this community and northeast Oklahoma experience our 200 medical students, the youth will be inspired in a new way. Students who never thought of medicine as a career will now pursue their medical degree here.”
Hoskin said mutual interests fostered a natural collaboration between OSU and its rural medical care priorities, and the Cherokee Nation and its many rural citizens.
“It should be no surprise that this partnership is going to change the lives of every person in our region for decades to come,” Hoskin said. “We are inspiring a generation of young people to get into health sciences, to be the doctors and nurses and health care professionals of tomorrow. It is great that in 2019 in the Cherokee Nation, we can go to Cherokee families everywhere and tell them their sons and their daughters can not only serve their people as a doctor, but they can do it by graduating from the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine right here in the heart of the Cherokee Nation.”
Other speakers included Joe Byrd, speaker for the CN Tribal Council, and Bill John Baker, former principal chief and executive chair for Cherokee Nation Businesses.
Dr. WIlliam Pettit, who will serve as dean of OSUCOM-CN, also addressed the gathering and said a total of 13 students had already been accepted to the college and that accreditors would visit the campus March 3-5, 2020.
“We at Oklahoma State University, in partnership with the Cherokee Nation…and also the Choctaw Nation have just received a $4.6 million grant, which is called the Medical School Education Program. It is designed to help promote young men and women who graduate from our medical school to stay and practice within the tribal nation’s health care system.”
The 84,000 square-foot medical center will include virtual reality simulation, neuro and gross anatomy labs, medical surgery, emergency room simulation, pediatrics simulation, three lecture halls and faculty spaces.