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Cherokee Pediatrician Named Child Advocate of the Year

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Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center pediatrician Migdalia Muriel was recently named Child Advocate of the Year at the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit annual gala.

The award is given to one who works in the health, education or social services field and directly impacts the lives of children. Muriel has been working as a pediatrician for the Cherokee Nation since 1996 and dedicated most of her career to providing quality health care for Native American children.

“The Cherokee Nation is committed to the education of our people, and that starts with the youngest citizens,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “I thank Dr. Muriel for her dedication to Cherokee youth. She understands the vital role education plays in their development as they continue to grow into healthy and functioning young adults.”

The Puerto Rican native completed her pre-medical studies at the University of Puerto Rico and graduated with her doctorate in medicine at the University of the Caribbean in 1980. Muriel completed a residency position for pediatrics at the University Hospital R. Arnaud in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and has also served as an assistant professor for the University of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioner program.

“I was surprised by this award, mainly because I never expected to be recognized for doing what I love and consider my duty, but I humbly accept it,” Muriel said. “I would like to share this with my family, Head Start and all the children that made my work possible and enjoyable.”

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Muriel lives in Tahlequah with her husband, Dr. Dante Perez. The couple has a son, Dante Jr., and two daughters, Maria and Pamela.

Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit, which encompasses Head Start, also awarded teacher Katie Reynolds with the 2013 Leader, Achiever, Motivator and Professional award.

The award is given to an individual within the Early Childhood Unit that embodies the philosophy of the Cherokee Nation Head Start program and maintains a stellar performance and attitude with children, parents and colleagues.

“When you have a teacher who is willing to make a difference in a child’s life, that is special, and Katie is a passionate and effective teacher who engages her students and their parents,” Baker said. “Through Katie’s dedication we are building better readers, writers and thinkers at Cherokee Nation Head Start.”

The gala was held November 26 in Tulsa.

For more information on the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit, please visit