STILWELL – A Cherokee Nation citizen whose passion is to ensure Native American communities have access to medicine is embarking on a chapter of his life toward that goal.
“I would love to ultimately return home to work in Cherokee Nation hospitals to provide aid to my people, but I also recognize that there may be other Native American populations that are suffering worse than our own,” said medical student Dakota St. Pierre. “I would love to graduate medical school and residency and begin working with Indian Health Services to provide aid to communities that would benefit from it the most.”
While at Stilwell High School, St. Pierre, now 22, took concurrent classes at Northeastern State University, then attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he created his major – fundamentals of medicine. He has been accepted to both the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City and OU Medical College of Community Medicine in Tulsa.
“I am very optimistic and enthusiastic to embark on the next step in my journey of becoming a doctor,” St. Pierre said. “I have spent the last four years being exposed to various areas of medicine and look forward to finally apply what I have been learning. Medicine is definitely a difficult journey, but each and every time I step into a hospital or clinical setting, I am reminded why I chose medicine and I look forward to being able to devote the majority of my time to learning the discipline.”
St. Pierre is recipient of an IHS scholarship “that is essentially a full ride through medical school,” he said, adding that he’s “open minded” about his post-medical school future.
“I am currently interested in dermatology, emergency medicine or anesthesiology, but medical school will allow me to fully immerse myself into various disciplines that will aid that final decision,” he said. “Whatever field I enter, I would love to ultimately serve Native American populations, especially the Cherokee Nation through Indian Health Services. I have grown up in the heart of the Cherokee Nation and have seen firsthand the struggles of my people when it comes to their health and how they suffer disproportionately to both acute and chronic diseases. I have also seen how Native communities can lack physicians that are willing to invest their careers in these areas for the long term.”
St. Pierre, whose interest in medicine was sparked in elementary school, has focused his time on studies and volunteerism.
“I am very fortunate to have a family that is extremely supportive towards my education,” he said. “My parents are the biggest influencers and support towards my path of medicine. I am forever grateful for the life and opportunities they have provided me.”
His volunteer work includes helping Stilwell students during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We would give out packaged and hot meals to students each day of the week while the schools were closed to ensure each child had something to eat,” he said. “This was the first time since I started college that I was able to provide aid to my hometown.”
Another memorable volunteer experience, he said, was during a Medlife Service Learning Trip in Peru.
“Each day we constructed mobile clinics consisting of primary care physicians, dentist and pharmacists that brought aid to communities outside of Lima that would have been without otherwise,” he said. “To see how grateful these people were and how they welcomed us into their homes was a very fulfilling experience.”
While his goal is to become a doctor, St. Pierre also wants to inspire others and recruit the next generation of Native American physicians.
“Too often I see kids think that just because they are from a small town, they cannot go off and achieve something like a medical degree,” he said. “But I would love to show them that it is definitely within their grasp as long as they take the necessary steps and are willing to put in the work.”
St. Pierre also owns and operates Baron Fork Outfitters, a clothing brand that emphasizes love for the outdoors, wildlife and Cherokee culture through designs, he said.
“I would definitely say that my Cherokee culture is something that I hold with the upmost importance in my life,” he added. “I think that the Cherokee language and culture is very important to preserve. I have always said that it is not necessarily my blood quantum that makes me Cherokee, but rather my desire to help the people of my tribe that does.”