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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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For One Chickasaw Doctor, to Serve Her Native American Community is a Calling
by Native News Network staff in Native Health

ADA, OKLAHOMA – A state of the art medical facility, clinics, pharmacies, wellness centers and nutrition training are just some of the ways the Chickasaw Nation is addressing the health care needs of its citizens. But these opportunities also provide inspiration for Native Americans to pursue an education in medicine and related fields.

The Association of American Medical Colleges recently reported that one of the most pressing health care challenges facing the country is the critical need for more minority physicians.

In the next 15 years, the US is projected to confront an overall shortage of physicians, but the need is, and will continue to be, particularly great for minority physicians.

Today, African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians together make up 25 percent of the United States population. However, only 6 percent of practicing doctors come from these groups.

Some progress is being made, as seen in Association of American Medical Colleges reports that show 12 percent of students graduating from a United States medical school are African American, Hispanic or Native American - and 15 percent of medical school applications are from these groups.

With opportunities in scholarship programs, internships, mentorships, and education, the Chickasaw Nation is doing its part to help increase those numbers.

For one Chickasaw doctor, returning to serve Native Americans is a calling she says is important for her and for the Native community.

Mahate Parker, a graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, is currently finishing her residency program in Obstetrics/Gynecology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Tulsa. Once her residency program concludes in July 2014, she plans to "come back to Ada" to begin her practice as an OB/GYN physician at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center.

"When I see a patient in the clinic here, in Tulsa, who is Native American, I feel that I can relate to them more," Parker said.

"The fact that I am Chickasaw I think makes for a better physician/patient relationship and really helps them because they feel more comfortable."

Parker said when she sees statistics like the percentage of American Indians physicians in the United States in 2004 was just 0.3 percent - or 2,457; she is inspired to encourage other Native Americans to pursue medicine.

"When I see a young person who shows some interest in being a doctor one day, I encourage them to get their feet wet by taking part in summer programs or shadowing someone in the field," she said.

"When we encourage them to pursue an education in medicine and then know that they are supported by the tribe through scholarships or other opportunities, I think we can turn those numbers around."

Parker said she received the Indian Health Services Scholarship (for more information on this scholarship, visit to initially go to college. The scholarship is for students interested in biology or chemistry with intent to be pre-med majors.

When she decided go to medical school, she was offered a scholarship from the Chickasaw Foundation but said she decided to accept the same scholarship she received as an undergraduate to cover medical school costs. She said she didn't want the foundation to pay for her medical school, and it would allow another Chickasaw student to get a scholarship. She also said the scholarship she accepted required her to complete a "four year payback" at a Native American facility. Parker said she knew then she wanted her "payback" time to be spent at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center.

"My mom is a nurse, my grandfather was a hospital administrator and my uncle is an emergency room physician, so I was always around medicine. At an early age I had decided what I wanted to do,"

said Parker, whose mother, Judy Goforth Parker, PhD, APRN CNP, is now administrator of the Chickasaw Nation Division of Health.

She said at one point she thought about veterinary medicine, but soon decided to attend medical school.

For patients to see not just a Native American physician, but also a woman, makes her a role model especially for girls.

"There have been a couple of instances where girls will see me and voice an interest in medicine," she said.

"I always encourage them and let them know that if they are willing to work hard, they can become a doctor one day."

For Parker today, her goal is to deliver healthy babies.

"It is very fulfilling to see someone who may have severe pain or other problems through a safe pregnancy," she said.

"When I work with high risk patients, I see them for a long time so it is really rewarding when you see them deliver a healthy child."

For now, Parker said she is looking forward to finishing her last year of residency and then coming to Ada.

"I am very excited about the facility in Ada, I know there are excellent physicians there that will allow me to continue to learn, and will give me the time and opportunity to repay everything the scholarship program and the tribe have done for me."

Parker said she knows she is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing in life.

"I want to provide good care for Chickasaws and other Native Americans," she said

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