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Oklahoma State University

Ceremony welcomes inaugural class of 54 first-year medical students

July 31, 2020

OSUCOM at the Cherokee Nation students get their white coat photos.
OSUCOM at the Cherokee Nation students line the hallway for their white coat photos in Tahlequah.

TAHLEQUAH— Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation will make history Friday, July 31 by holding the first iconic White Coat ceremony marking the official opening of the nation’s first tribally-affiliated medical school. The ceremony, in partnership with the Cherokee Nation, is the initial step for the inaugural class of 54 first-year medical students who will symbolically enter the medical profession with the donning of their white coat. 

In October 2018, OSU Medicine and the Cherokee Nation announced the establishment of the nation’s first college of medicine to be located on the campus of a tribal health facility in Tahlequah. 

“This ceremony is the historic beginning of a new era in training physicians for our rural communities. These 54 medical students represent the fulfillment of many dreams over many years; to create a medical school in partnership with the largest tribal nation in the heart of Indian Country,” said Kayse Shrum, D.O., OSU-CHS president and OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine dean.

"The students can attend medical school, complete their residency training, and practice medicine— all right there in Tahlequah under the auspices of both OSU Medicine and the Cherokee Nation. I can't think of a better way to attract and train primary care physicians for rural and underserved Oklahoma."

-- Dr. Kayse Shrum

“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,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “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. They have our full support.”

“The students who make up the Class of 2024 have fulfilled our greatest hopes. They come with impeccable academic credentials and a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Our faculty here in Tahlequah and in Tulsa are committed to their academic and professional success. Our singular mission is to prepare them for a fulfilling and successful career in medicine,” said Dr. William J. Pettit, dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.

The inaugural class is composed of a diverse group, including 20 percent who are American Indian. The ceremony will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, July 31 at Cornerstone Fellowship in Tahlequah. Out of an abundance of caution the ceremony will be private and limited only to the students, medical school faculty and Cherokee Nation leadership.  A live feed of the proceedings will be shown on OStateTV.

Construction continues on the new, state-of-the-art facility of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation which is located on the campus of the W.W. Hastings Hospital.  Students will attend a mix of online and in-person classes with appropriate physical distancing. Temporary classrooms have been established at the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center while construction on the new medical school continues.

The 84,000-square-foot medical school building will include an anatomy laboratory, clinical skills lab, osteopathic manipulative medicine lab, standardized 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 carrels and a gym/workout area. Construction, which was delayed during the pandemic, is expected to be finished in December 2020.

The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation is an extension of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine located in Tulsa. OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association's Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.

Melani Hamilton | Managing Director Marketing & Communications | 918-809-8963 | melani.hamilton@okstate.edu