Press Release

Release Date: November 30, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Chickasaw Nation Department of Health officials shared the tribe’s 10-year health care plan with Roselyn Tso, Indian Health Service (IHS) director, on a recent visit to the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center’s South Campus in Ada. 

Ms. Tso, who was recently appointed to her position, visited the Chickasaw Nation Oct. 31. 

Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Health Dr. Charles Grim opened the meeting by calling attention to Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby’s vision for constructing a large medical facility that will help serve the Oklahoma City area. 

Dr. Grim said it is a large goal, but the Chickasaw Nation’s history and growth supports its viability. 

Governor Anoatubby called attention to the nation’s vision in 1975, a time when the tribe had only 30 employees, 15 of which worked in the department of health. 

“Obviously, health has been one of our highest priorities, if not our highest. It is one of the first things we saw within the Chickasaw Nation that was good for our people. We also saw the need for housing, which is a very important goal too,” he said. 

“When I was younger, we didn’t have a health facility within the Chickasaw boundaries. 

There was a health facility in Lawton and one in Talihina, and if we expected to get health care from IHS, that is where we had to go.” 

Gov. Anoatubby said the lack of health care availability meant some citizens only accessed health care as a last resort. 

“People depended on those facilities, but there were a lot of people who didn’t seek out health care until it was an emergency situation oftentimes. When I was in high school, I saw the first clinic go up in Tishomingo. Technically, it just was not really an Indian health care facility. The Indian Health Service leased it from private individuals. 

That’s where we went for health care. It was very special to us to be able to get that health care,” Gov. Anoatubby said. 

Years later the tribe opened a much larger clinic in Tishomingo that would eventually be dwarfed by those currently operating in Ada, Ardmore and Purcell, Oklahoma. 

“(The Tishomingo clinic) seemed like a wonderful place, it seemed like it was a very big place, but today it is much smaller than the other facilities,” he said. 

“As the health system has grown, so has the rest of the tribe, because we’ve emphasized what the mission is,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “If we have healthy people and we’re providing health services to our people, our communities are going to be better. We will have a healthy community,” he said. 

Gov. Anoatubby said the 30 employees in 1975 have mushroomed to more than 13,000 in succeeding years. Approximately half those employees work within tribal government, the other half in enterprises run by the nation. 

“Enterprises help support programs that provide services to our people,” he said. 

Programs supported by Chickasaw Nation enterprises outside of health care serve educational, housing and senior citizen needs. 

“All those are people programs. We have emphasized those and channeled any funding we have available to the programs that serve people.” 

Governor Anoatubby said while the nation’s growth benefits Chickasaw citizens it has also paid dividends for the community as a whole. 

“We have a mission we established years ago, and it is to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. While we may be reaching Chickasaw people and enhancing their lives, we’re also enhancing the lives of those other people who live within our area. 

“Just as with the health system, there’s only a percentage of people who are Chickasaw that we’re serving, but we serve everyone within our health system design. We have programs that are designed to help everybody. 

“Our mission is clear,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “We keep it at the top of our minds every day as we go about our work. We feel really blessed that we’ve been able to be where we are and do what we do. But we know our jobs are not finished. We still have a lot of things to do. Health care is an area where we believe we need to continue to grow and continue to do new things.” 

Governor Anoatubby reiterated his appreciation of the Indian Health Service’s partnership with the Chickasaw Nation and thanked Ms. Tso for visiting in person. 

“We’re glad you came, and we hope that while you’re here you’ll get a real understanding of who we are and what we’re about and why we do what we do.” 

Asked her impression of the meeting, Ms. Tso expressed her own appreciation.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” Ms. Tso said. “I’m just real excited about the places that the (Chickasaw) nation wants to go and I’m excited to be able to be a part of that journey with the (Chickasaw) nation.”