Students marked their entries into medical school on Friday in a white coat ceremony at OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.
OSU Center for Health Sciences President and OSU School of Osteopathic Medicine Dean Dr. Kayse Shrum told them while their families and friends couldn’t be present because of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s still plenty of cause for celebration.
"Every white coat ceremony is special, but yours is not only special, it’s historic. Today, you’re helping us make history. You are the inaugural class of the nation’s first tribally affiliated medical school," Shrum said.
Talks about building the a medical school in Tahlequah started about a decade ago as the tribe looked to ensure a supply of health care providers for its expanding W.W. Hastings Hospital under former Principal Chief Bill John Baker. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. delivered a video message to the 54 future doctors.
"We want you to understand what it means and what it’s like serving native populations and rural communities, because we will need you, our people will need you and rural Oklahoma will need you," Hoskin said.
In the inaugural class, 20% of students are Native American, and 40% are from rural areas.
Students will attend a mix of online and in-person classes with appropriate physical distancing as the pandemic continues.