Medical School on Cherokee Reservation Will Soon Send Doctors to Tribal, Rural Areas

by | Nov 1, 2023 | Health

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Ashton Glover Gatewood decided to give medical school a second try after learning about a new campus designed for Indigenous students like herself.

Gatewood is now set to be part of the first graduating class at Oklahoma State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation. Leaders say the physician training program is the only one on a Native American reservation and affiliated with a tribal government.

“This is the school that is everything that I need to be successful,” said Gatewood, a member of the Choctaw Nation who also has Cherokee and Chickasaw ancestry. “Literally, the campus, the curriculum, the staff — everything was built and hired and prepared and planned for you.”

The program in Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, aims to increase the number of Cherokee and other Indigenous physicians. It’s also focused on expanding the number of doctors from all backgrounds who serve rural or tribal communities.

Natasha Bray, an osteopathic physician and dean of the program, said most medical schools teach about barriers that can make it difficult for rural or Indigenous patients to get care and improve their health.

But she said students in Tahlequah get to see these barriers firsthand by studying on the Cherokee Reservation and doing rotations in tiny communities and withi …

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