New medical students receive white coats during ceremony

Jul. 30—All dressed in white, the newest class to attend the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation were welcomed and celebrated during a White Coat Ceremony on July 29.

Interim dean Dr. Natasha Bray said this group was the college's third class since first opening in August 2020. She explained the goal of OSU COMCN.

"We know we have a physician shortage in rural areas," said Bray "We're giving students and chance to work in the environment where we need them to practice. The other great thing we emphasize are physicians who understand Native culture."

Bray said that nationally, only .3 percent of practicing physicians are Native American.

"Across our three classes, that [number] is closer to 20 percent," said Bray.

This newest class had 50 students.

As a Cherokee Nation citizen, new medical student Caleb Watson said one thing that "intrigued" him about the college was how it works closely with the Cherokee Nation.

"Not only do I get to learn about medicine, but I get to learn about my culture," said Watson.

Watson is from Tupelo, near Ada.

"I come from a very small town where medical resources are hard to obtain, so that motivated me," said Watson. "I want to prove that I can do it and be a role model for others."

Watson said of the four years he will be in medical school, he will spend two years in Tahlequah doing didactics, or book work, and two years doing clinical rotations.

"Right now, I want to go into emergency medicine, but I want to keep my mind open and explore," said Watson.

Another new student, Parker Smith, is from Edmond. He would like to practice in a tribal clinic or hospital.

"As for a specialty, I'm not sure yet," said Smith. "I'm looking at primary care. There's a lot to see and do, so I'm not sure yet."

Smith was motivated to go into the medical field for several reasons.

"My uncle was a family physician. He was a big inspiration," said Smith. "The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma does a lot for the community, so I wanted to be in a position where I could give back as well."

Aiden Ramirez-Tatum was raised in Stanton, Michigan, and she's looking forward to learning about the human body in greater depth.

"I really hope to go into family practice and work in a tribal medical facility," said Ramirez-Tatum.

Bray later shared some more news.

"The inaugural class of 2024 has just started their clinical rotations on July 1 out in the community, rural areas, and tribal centers taking care of our citizens and neighbors," said Bray.