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First OSUCOM-Cherokee Nation class receives white coats

First OSUCOM-Cherokee Nation class receives white coats

During a socially distanced ceremony on July 31, the new Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation welcomed the 54 students of its first class with the presentation of their white coats.

Safety precautions to defend against COVID-19 included the attendance OSUCOM staff, incoming students and tribal officials. The students sat apart from one another, and Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. gave a video address.

“Today we celebrate a momentous milestone and a historic moment for the Cherokee Nation, for our friends at Oklahoma State University, and for our first class of 54 students who are officially entering the medical profession,” Hoskin said. “As we mark the official opening of the first tribally-affiliated medical school in the United States, we know that we will one day look back on this day and what will matter most is whether our efforts have changed lives for the better. I believe that this partnership will advance quality health care for all by allowing us to teach a new generation of medical professionals to serve our communities for years to come. I wish each and every student the best as they begin this journey.”

“Our people will need you and rural Oklahoma will need you,” he added.

The CN and the OSU Center for Health and Sciences have collaborated on the medical school for more than a decade, and it is the first on tribal land in the country. Twelve members of the incoming class are Native Americans.

The COVID outbreak has delayed completion of the 84,000-square-foot building on the campus of W.W. Hastings Hospital. Nonetheless, classes will begin as scheduled.

“The new facility is not yet ready, but we have classroom space in the new Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center that has been generously donated while they complete construction on the building,” said Dr. Natasha Bray, clinical associate professor of rural health and associate dean of the OSUCOM at Cherokee Nation. “We are providing a mixture of in-person and online classes; in-person classes will include appropriate seating for students to be at least six feet apart and mask wearing will be in place.”

The OSUCOM at Cherokee Nation will train primary care doctors with an interest in serving Oklahoma’s rural and Native American residents. The school will have 16 full-time, five part-time faculty and many clinical faculty. Distance learning at OSUCOM in Tulsa will allow students to study with faculty and collaborate with each other between campuses.

During his address, Hoskin also commended former Principal Chief Bill John Baker for making the medical school an achievable objective when Baker’s administration first inked the agreement with OSU.

“His efforts to build our new state-of-the-art outpatient health center led the conversations with OSU Center for Health Sciences about the possibility of housing a medical school campus to add more physicians in the pipeline,” Hoskin said.

Dr. Kayse Shrum, dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, acknowledged the “sparsely populated” Cornerstone Fellowship and the awkwardness of the students not being with family as they received their coats.

“We share your disappointment, but the usual circumstance does not detract from your accomplishments, nor does it diminish the pride that we and your family and friends have for you,” Shrum said. “Every white coat ceremony is special, but yours is not only special: it’s historic.”

The OSUCOM-CN campus will be an extension of the Tulsa campus. Construction continues to be slowed by COVID, but could conclude before the end of the fall term.

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