Key makes difference as pediatrician

BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
02/20/2018 08:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
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
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Dr. Cerissa Key
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.”

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