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Cherokee Citizen Leads Tribal Health System to National Recognition

Cherokee Nation citizen Kim Chuculate will accept a national award from the director of Indian Health Service at a ceremony in Maryland in November.

Cherokee Nation citizen Kim Chuculate will accept a national award from the director of Indian Health Service at a ceremony in Maryland in November.

Chuculate spearheaded a project with eight tribes to secure funds to build the Northeastern Tribal Health System’s 52,000-square-foot facility in Miami, Oklahoma in 2012, and a 5,500-square-foot health education center a year later.

Thanks to her leadership, Kim and the project management team earned the 2013 Indian Health Service National Director’s Special Recognition Award for Tribal Partnership. Chuculate also now serves as the chief executive officer of the Northeastern Tribal Health System.

“This is an outstanding honor for Kim, one that she earned for her sincere commitment to increasing access to quality health care for Native people in northeast Oklahoma,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Indigenous populations suffer at the highest rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. However, with visionary leaders like Kim, we can better address the long-term health of our people, especially our elders and our children. Enhanced facilities like the health center in Miami, coupled with better education, will help improve the health of our tribal citizens for generations.”

Chuculate began her career in the health field as a registered respiratory therapist more than 20 years ago. She held department director positions at Bailey Medical Center in Owasso and Claremore Indian Hospital. She was hired as the administrative officer at Northeastern Tribal Health System in 2008.

During that time, she worked with tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, the Shawnee Tribe, Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, Miami Tribe, Quapaw Tribe, Modoc Tribe, Ottawa Tribe and Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. She’s also worked with the Inter-Tribal Council of Northeastern Oklahoma, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Indian Health Service Oklahoma City Area Office, to build the entirely new facility in Miami. The former building was only 12,000 square feet.

Chuculate was promoted to CEO in August 2013. Even with her administrative duties, she still takes time for patient care based on need.

“As a Cherokee citizen and a patient here, it’s been great to see where we were three years ago and where we are now,” Chuculate said. “As the CEO of the clinic and as a health care professional, I believe it’s very important that people have access to quality health care and that they have a nice facility to utilize, to get the care they need.”

The new facility design is based on the Native American longhouse. This is the first time a group of tribes in this region has ever collaborated to combine their respective HUD grants for one specific project.

Cherokee Nation

Northeastern Tribal Health System’s new facility was a collaborative effort between eight Native American tribes and was led by Cherokee Nation citizen Kim Chuculate.

“We had to get HUD’s permission to combine the grants. At the time, a project like this had never been done in this part of the United States, nor to this magnitude. It was kind of a roll of the dice, and it worked fabulously,” Chuculate said. “We are now one of the models of how to do it. It was great to be a part of these projects.”

Northeastern Tribal Health System sees 17,000 patients from multiple states who are tribal citizens from more than 120 federally recognized tribes. Last year, the center had about 90,000 patient visits. Cherokee Nation is one of eight tribes on the health center’s governing board, and Cherokee citizens make up about 70 percent of the center’s patient base.

Chuculate is a graduate of Vinita High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Wesleyan University and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. She and her husband, Geremy, have one child.

For more information on the health center’s services, call Northeastern Tribal Health System at 918-542-1655.