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**Embargo: Tulsa, OK** Wearing a ribbon skirt, Ashton Gatewood, who is Choctaw and Chickasaw, is cloaked in a white coat by Dr. Natasha Bray during the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation white coat ceremony in Tahlequah on Friday.

Oklahoma State University opens nation’s first tribally affiliated medical school

A historic “white coat” ceremony on Friday for 54 Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine students officially launched Cherokee Nation’s medical school.

Former Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. were acknowledged for setting up the partnership between Cherokee Nation and OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine to establish the first tribally affiliated medical school in the country.

“History is being made today,” Hoskin said during an online speech to the students. “As each of you receives your white coat and embark on a four-year journey that will forever shape the delivery of health care for our Cherokee people in rural Oklahoma.”

Cherokee Nation people are full of grit and determination, and those same principles have guided the nation into what it is today, Hoskin said.

“That dream is now a reality,” he said. “Our people will need you and rural Oklahoma will need you.”

The inaugural class represents a beacon of hope for rural and tribal communities throughout Oklahoma that suffer from physician shortages, said Dr. Kayse Shrum, OSU Center for Health Sciences president and OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine dean.

“A child growing up in northeast Oklahoma no longer has to leave this region to pursue their dream to become a doctor,” Shrum said.

“Twenty percent of you are American Indian, 41 percent of you have a rural background and 100 percent of you will help us change the heatlh trajectory of Oklahoma for the better,” Shrum said.

Each medical student received a white coat during the 40-minute ceremony.

“You come with impeccable academic credentials and a desire to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Dr. William J. Pettit, dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.

Third-year medical student Katie Marney also addressed the students with three points of advice.

“Support one another; give yourself some grace; enjoy this moment and enjoy this experience.”

OSU Medicine and the Cherokee Nation announced the medical school in October 2018. The 84,000-square-foot building is expected to be finished in December.

Author: Sheila Stogsdill / TULSA WORLD
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