Okla. The winter season is the busiest time of year for Cherokee
Nation pediatricians because of peaking numbers of cold and flu
cases, as well as aggravated asthma and allergies.
Cherokee citizen and Vinita Health Center Pediatrician Nicole
Willis, 31, of Claremore, has seen a rise in visits firsthand.
"I have seen really sick children as a result of the flu and
respiratory syncytial virus," Willis said. "As a pediatrician, I
always encourage parents to take preventative measures with their
children. Parents should get their children the influenza vaccine
and practice frequent handwashing, as well as avoid busy places
during the flu season."
Willis, a recipient of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association
"Rookie Physician of the Year Award," is the most recent addition
to pediatricians working for the tribe. She wanted to work in a
rural area, and a scholarship from Indian Health Service encouraged
her to give back to her American Indian community.
Willis finished her residency with Oklahoma State University
Medical Center and The Children's Hospital at Saint Francis in Tulsa
last year before working for the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
in the Norman clinic. She helped reach a near-capacity patient load
after only three months. In March 2013, she started at the Vinita
Health Center and sees patients from as far as Joplin and Springfield,
"Most of my patients are local and from the Joplin area, where
they want a pediatrician closer to home," Willis said. "I have a
great patient population. They're the best part of the job and remind
me on a daily basis why I do what I do."
Vinita resident and Cherokee citizen Amy Turner had been taking
her 4-year-old daughter to a private pediatrician in Claremore,
but began taking her to see Willis at the Vinita Health Center.
"It's just so much more convenient with work and the drive
to be able to bring her to a doctor here in town," Turner said.
"It helps that Dr. Willis is so great. We really love her."
Other Cherokee Nation health facilities that have one or more
pediatricians are W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Three Rivers
Health Center in Muskogee, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw,
Amo Health Center in Salina, Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in
Stilwell and Sam Hider Health Center in Jay.
For more information, call the Vinita Health Center at 918-256-4800.