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OSU-COM honors first class of Native American graduates

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Posted at 6:46 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 19:46:49-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Oklahoma State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation is celebrating its first graduating class.

On May 14, the school honored the Native American graduates at Cherokee Casino Tahlequah.

This year, 15% of OSU's medical school graduates are tribal, according to OSU President Dr. Kayse Shrum. That's by far the highest rate of any medical school in the nation.

"Across the U.S., it's typically less than .4% of medical students are Native American," said Dr. Shrum.

Dr. Shrum also noted that OSU-COM is the nation's first tribally-recognized medical school.

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It offers three tracks of medicine: urban, rural and tribal. Graduate Charlie Dawson, a proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation, studied a little of all three. Dawson is part of the first inaugural class at the medical school's Tahlequah campus.

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For her, medicine is more than just a career; it is a calling to serve her community.

"The younger generation kind of looks up to you, so the people who are physicians that are in Tahlequah, I was able to look up to them and ask them to help mentor me," said Dawson. "That was really special because they also have similar experiences, similar cultural backgrounds as myself."

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. called graduates like Dawson "pioneers," ones that will inspire future generations to dream big.

"I think when a young Cherokee sees what's going on here at a graduation event like this event, they're going to be inspired, and we need them to be," said Chief Hoskin.

Dr. Shrum said next up for all of these graduates is residency. Dawson specializes in emergency medicine.

"My ideal situation would be able to come back and work in northeast Oklahoma. I'd love to be able to come back to Tahlequah, where I trained, and get to work with my tribes," said Dawson.

67% of the inaugural class will complete their residency in Oklahoma, according to OSU-COM.


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