COLLABORATION

Arizona collaboration to open US’s first tribal-affiliated medical school

SOURCE: Oklahoma State University
Rendering of the planned OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.

Leaders from the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma State University Centre for Health Sciences gathered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma on Monday to break ground on the 84,000 sq foot OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.

The new build will be the first tribally-affiliated medical school on tribal land anywhere in the United States, according to Cherokee Nation, the federally-recognised government of the Cherokee people.

The centre aims to expand and modernise health services facilities for future generations of tribal citizens.

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The new college will be built on the site of the recently demolished optometry department after a cost analysis determined that construction of a new state-of-the art facility is more cost-efficient than renovations to modernise the existing structure.

“Health care in Indian Country took a major step forward today with the historic groundbreaking of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said at the ceremony.

“We believe this school will produce a new wave of medical students who will possess the medical knowledge and the mindset to reside and practice in northeast Oklahoma, positively impacting Cherokee Nation health care and other health care systems across the region.”

Rendering of the planned OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.

According to OSU, the new facility will include an anatomy laboratory, clinical skills lab, osteopathic manipulative medicine lab, standardised patient labs and a simulation center that will feature state-of-the-art computer programmable manikins. There will also be lecture halls, classrooms, faculty offices, study areas and a gym/workout area.

The college is slated to open in 2020 with 50 students. The medical school is expected to serve 200 students when it becomes fully operational. The first graduating class at the new facility is expected to complete their medical education in May 2024.

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Cherokee Nation is the largest tribal nation in the United States, with over 360,000 citizens. With a large portfolio in various businesses, entertainment, and aerospace, Cherokee Nation has become highly important to Oklahoma’s economy, contributing US$2 billion annually.

They donate large sums of money to local causes and institutions, including schools and law enforcement. They also offer free health services to members of the tribe, with preference for the tribal health system growing in recent years.

According to OSU News, the current Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital, which opened in 1983, was designed for 63,000 patient care visits a year. In 2018, the hospital had recorded 410,744 patient care visits.