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Cherokee Nation Surgical Tech Honored as National Instructor of the Year

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Cherokee Citizen Tommy Hays was recently named “New Instructor of the Year” by the Association of Surgical Technologists.

Hays, a certified surgical technologist at Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital, started a training program in 2009 to internally grow Cherokee surgical technologists. He also wrote the training curriculum.

To date, 18 Cherokee students have completed the program and passed national certification.

“It was a total shock to receive this award,” Hays, of Tahlequah, said. “I got noticed for something that I created from the ground up. It’s a humbling feeling.”

A surgical technologist prepares sterile instruments used during patient operations, as well as assists the surgeon.

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Hays earned his Bachelor of Science from Excelsior College. He left his job with Indian Health Service as a surgical technologist in 2008.

Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital’s Surgical Technology Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Up to 10 Cherokee students are accepted into the program each year.

“Tommy reads something and automatically remembers it and is then able to teach it effectively to his students,” Surgical Technology Program Director Patti Sumner said. “Even at the hospital, all the surgeons ask for him to assist because he’s such an advocate for patients. He wants the best outcome for them, and that comes through in his teaching.”

Hays was recently honored by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council for his award.

“It’s been one of my goals to fill operating rooms with all Cherokee personnel,” Hays said. “This program has helped change these students’ lives for the better, and I’m glad to know I had a little part in that.”