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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Cherokee Student Nearing End of Medical School
by Tesina Jackson - Cherokee Phoenix
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – When Cherokee Nation citizen Socia Love Thurman was younger, she periodically watched her parents work as emergency medical technicians, which piqued her interest in medicine.

"That kind of sparked my interest in it and then I just kind of watched them my whole life and saw that it was a really rewarding career to work with people and serve them through health care," the 25-year-old said.

Although her plans are to become a doctor, that wasn't always the case. While attending the University of Oklahoma she first majored in nursing.

"Nobody in my family is a doctor and I just wasn't sure if I was capable of doing that. But I remember someone telling me 'this is your chance. If you even remotely think that that's what you want to do then you just need to go after it and do it,'" she said. "So I ended up changing my major to pre-med and just kept on that track ..."

As a pre-med student, Love Thurman focused on microbiology, which deals with the structure, function, uses and modes of existence of microscopic organisms.

"I just kind of thought that it would be a good background because there's so much infectious disease and things that people get and learning how those bugs work and how do we fight them off. I was interested in that."

Since graduating from OU, she attends the University of Minnesota Medical School because of its Indian health services. She first attended the Duluth campus, but is now at the Twin Cities campus. Now in her third year of medical school, she goes to clinics to rotate through specialties such as pediatrics, surgery, family medicine and internal medicine.

"It's fun because every six weeks or so you change and do something different, and you really get to see all the different things and see where you kind of fit in medicine," Love Thurman said. "I think everybody kind of has an idea of what they kind of want to go in to, but so many people change their minds when they, they think 'Oh, I definitely want to be a surgeon' then they go through surgery rotation and think 'Oh no, no, I don't want to do that' after being on that rotation."

She said rotations helps students decide what area to focus on. Love Thurman just finished her surgery rotation and started pediatrics. While she enjoys each rotation, she tries to keep an open mind on what to focus on.

"I kind of started out thinking that I wanted to do family medicine and be a family doctor, and I still have that in the back of my mind, but I'm just trying to keep an open mind just in case something sparks my interest more," she said.

After medical school, Love Thurman will pick a residency and undergo further clinical training.

To help pay for school, she has an Indian Health Services scholarship. When she graduates from medical school she will be able to work at IHS for four years and pay off her school debt. When finished, she plans on moving to Tahlequah and starting a career at W.W. Hastings Hospital.

"I really couldn't see anything else but Hastings because it's one of the bigger facilities and I think it's a great facility," she said.

As she winds down her medical school experience, she encourages others to pursue higher education.

"I just hope that my story could help someone who's even remotely thinking about medicine that they can do it because I didn't even think that I could do it. You just really have to work hard at what it is that you're wanting to do and you can do it."

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