Okla. Although living in large urban areas offers an individual
many activities, Lori Smith always longed for the more quiet, outdoors
type of life. That may surprise a few, since Smith, a new pediatrician
in Cherokee Nation's health system, grew up in Jenks and attended
a school system that is now home to more than 10,000 students. After
graduating from Jenks High School, it was on to more big cities
for medical school, including the University of Colorado School
of Medicine in Denver and pediatric residency at the University
of Indiana Medical School in Indianapolis. However, she always felt
right at home while visiting family in Tahlequah and traveling throughout
the rural areas of the Cherokee Nation.
who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, always longed for the times she
was in Oklahoma and visiting relatives in Tahlequah, which brought
her closer to her Cherokee roots. Now, she has returned to that
place, helping family and friends as a pediatrician at the tribe's
Sam Hider Health Center in Jay.
have always been identified as Cherokee, but I had a great cultural
mix growing up. A lot of things were subtle, like being humble,
but over the years I found out that those were actually Cherokee
traits I had learned," she said.
of the Cherokee attributes Smith picked up was to teach, meaning
to share wisdom and knowledge with others to help educate an individual
or a family. That is one of the reasons she wanted to attend medical
school and become a pediatrician.
Cherokee Nation, we don't just treat a disease, we actually
use education," she said. "We have many prevention programs,
and we also help educate those who have a disease to live the best
quality of life they can live. This is especially true with the
children, who, for the most part, have the medical problems they
have through no fault of their own."
also said she enjoys helping families who think they have run out
of options and that no help is available to them.
helped one child here with spina bifida. He had lost all contact
with his previous doctors because his mother didn't know the
Cherokee Nation had resources that would help her child. There have
been others I have been able to help that haven't been able
to get help before," she said.
reflecting on her childhood, Smith gets emotional when she thinks
about how proud her grandparents and family from long ago would
be of her being a Cherokee doctor and helping children and families
in her tribe.
a doctor is what I have always wanted to do. It has been a long
road and there have been a lot of obstacles to overcome. But I am
so happy to be home and getting to do what I love for Cherokees.
I was always close to my Cherokee family, and I know I have made
them happy," she said. "It feels right for me to be here."