Tribal Engagement

American Indian Population in Oklahoma

The Stephenson Cancer Center (SCC) has a strong focus on addressing cancer health disparities among Oklahoma’s large American Indian population. More than 360,000 American Indians reside in Oklahoma (9.2% of the total population). Nationally, Oklahoma has the second highest number of American Indian residents (after California) and the second highest percentage of American Indian residents (after Alaska). Oklahoma’s 38 federally recognized tribal nations cover the entire state, with particularly large populations in the northeast (Cherokee Nation), east central (Creek Nation), southeast (Choctaw Nation), south central (Chickasaw Nation), and southwest (Southern Plains Nations).

Cancer Health Disparities among American Indians in Oklahoma

High cancer incidence and mortality rates affect the state’s large American Indian population:

  • American Indians in Oklahoma have an overall incidence rate that is 1.4x higher than the US (all races) rate. Oklahoma has the highest age-adjusted American Indian cancer incidence rate for all cancers of any state.
  • American Indians in Oklahoma have an overall cancer mortality rate that is 1.5x higher than the US (all races) rate. 
  • In Oklahoma, mortality rates among American Indians are 50% to 99% higher for lung, prostate and colorectal cancer, over 100% higher for cervical cancer, and over 200% higher for kidney cancer.

SCC investigators are actively collaborating with tribal health systems and communities throughout the state to address these health disparities:

American Indian Patient Navigation Program
This nationally unique Program features a team of patient navigators and referral coordinators who serve as facilitators for American Indian patients and families, tribal health systems, and the SCC. The Program provides expedited access for tribal health systems referring patients to the SCC as well as navigation services to patients and families. Over the past decade, the Program has served more than 3,000 American Indian cancer patients and families from more than 50 different tribal affiliations.

Collaborations with Tribal Nations
The SCC has partnered with numerous tribal entities in a broad range of initiatives focused on decreasing the burden of cancer among American Indians. Important partners include: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cheyenne & Arapaho, Osage, and other tribal nations; Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC); Indian Health Service (IHS); Southern Plains Tribal Health Board; and the Indian Health Care Resource Center of Tulsa. Below are select projects that have resulted from these collaborations:

Project: Cherokee Nation – SCC Collaborative on Cancer Disparities
Description (NIH Reporter): P20CA202921
Tribal Partner: Cherokee Nation

Project: Cherokee Nation Native American Research Center for Health (Cherokee NARCH 9).
Description (NIH Reporter): S06GM123546
Tribal Partner: Cherokee Nation

Project: Cherokee Nation Native American Research Centers for Health (Cherokee NARCH 10).
Description (NIH Reporter): S06GM127983
Tribal Partner: Cherokee Nation

Project: Center on American Indian and Alaska Native Genomic Research
Description (NIH Reporter): RM1HG009042
Tribal Partners: Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation

Project: Factors Influencing Scientific Research Careers among American Indians
Description (NIH Reporter): R35GM127107

Project: Building Cancer Survivorship Research Capacity in Rural Oklahoma
P30CA225520-01S1 (CCSG Supplement)
Tribal Partner: Choctaw Nation

Project: Colorectal Cancer Screening Implementation in Partnership with Native American Communities
P30CA225520-01S2 (CCSG Supplement)
Tribal Partners: Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic

Project: Programs for the Training and Advancement of the Next GENeration of Native Researchers in Genetics, Ethics and Society
Description (NIH Reporter): R25HG010132
Tribal Partners: Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, Chickasaw Nation, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Southcentral Foundation

Precision Medicine and Cancer in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities
In November 2016, the SCC hosted a national meeting, “Precision Medicine and Cancer in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities,” for NCI cancer center investigators and tribal community partners engaged in American Indian cancer research. Planned in collaboration with the NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences and the Office of the NCI Director, the goal of this meeting was to begin a dialogue to address cultural and ethical concerns and develop opportunities for American Indian participation in Precision Medicine initiatives.

Related SCC Programs and Resources

Contact Information

Mark Doescher, MD, MSPH
Associate Director for Cancer Prevention and Control, SCC
Director, Community Outreach and Engagement Core
Professor, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
mark-doescher@ouhsc.edu

Dorothy Rhoades, MD, MPH
Director, American Indian Cancer Research Initiatives, SCC
Co-Director, Community Outreach and Engagement Core
Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
dorothy-rhoades@ouhsc.edu

Paul Spicer, PhD
Co-Leader, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, SCC
Director, Center for Applied Social Research, OU Norman
Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of Oklahoma
paul-spicer@ou.edu

Community Outreach and Engagement Core
scc-outreach@ouhsc.edu

Core Staff
Stephanie Pharr, BS, CHES
Community Outreach Coordinator