OSU-COM at the Cherokee Nation medical student Ashton Glover Gatewood, right, fishes with her family near Wasilla, Alaska.

Medical student spends time in Alaska on tribal medicine training – Oklahoma State University

OSU-COM to Cherokee Nation medical student Ashton Glover Gatewood, right, fishes with her family near Wasilla, Alaska. Gatewood completed a medical rotation at Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center as part of his Tribal Medical Track training.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Media contact: Sara Plummer | Communications Coordinator | 918-561-1282 | sara.plummer@okstate.edu

For medical student Ashton Glover Gatewood, spending time in Wasilla, Alaska caring for patients and learning from doctors at Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center was both quite similar and very different from her time at the facilities of Oklahoma tribal health.

Gatewood— a member of the Choctaw Nation and a descendant of Cherokee and Chickasaw ancestors – is a third-year medical student at OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah and is part of the first cohort of Tribal Medical Track students.

“One of the best parts of the tribal medical stream is learning from different tribal facilities. There’s so much in common that we have, but also differences between our nations,” Gatewood said. “It was fun to hear stories of dip netting, gold mining and moose hunting in Alaska and trout fishing, deer hunting and foot dancing in Oklahoma. overarching theme is the love we share for our communities and hope for the future of health and well-being in Indian Country.

The goal of the Tribal Medical track is to prepare students for successful enrollment in tribal communities and health systems with the goal of ameliorating the primary care physician workforce shortages faced by the systems. tribal health care, said Lori Boyd, director of clinical training at the OSU Center for Health Sciences. Currently, 20 second- and third-year OSU medical students are enrolled in the TMT.

As part of the TMT, students must complete a portion of their internships at tribal health facilities, which do not necessarily all have to be located in Oklahoma.

Gatewood said the Alaska Family Medicine Residency Program is a highly valued program for rural, tribal, and wilderness medicine.

“Since having family in Palmer, Alaska, I thought this was a great opportunity to visit my family, get some amazing training, and travel to a site that has long been a item on the professional and personal to-do list,” she said.

Ashton Glover Gatewood, center, at Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center in Wasilla, Alaska.
Ashton Glover Gatewood, center, with family physicians Dr. Virginia Hunter, left, and Dr. Susan Steffans at the Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center in Wasilla, Alaska.

The Wasilla Health Care Center serves all American Indians and Alaska Natives who are enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, and Gatewood has been able to work with family physicians, pediatricians, and other specialist providers. She also discovered a different way of life and value system.

“The Alaskan way of life was very land, family and often even subsistence based. Due to the rural and even remote nature of the communities, they value self-sufficiency, the outdoors and harvesting food from the land,” she said. “This way of looking at life inspires me to make healthier food and exercise decisions and shift priorities from a more materialistic, high-speed mindset to a focused mindset. on family and well-being.

Boyd said Gatewood is a capable, goal-oriented student with a bright future who wants to improve the health and lives of members of her community. Thanks to this rotation in Alaska, she broadened her experiences and stepped out of her comfort zone.

“I was very excited for Ashton and thrilled to know that she expanded her learning of tribal medicine through experience with tribal people in Alaska,” she said. “The Tribal Medical Track at OSU is gaining attention across the country, and as our students continue to pursue unique, out-of-state learning experiences like Ashton, the way is open for future students TMT do the same.”

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