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Rural Health Care Partnership Announcement

HUGO, Oklahoma  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK), the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), and the Oklahoma Physician Manpower Training Commission (PMTC) have partnered together to increase the availability of health care in rural areas of southeastern Oklahoma.

BCBSOK has donated $500,000 to the PMTC Physician Loan Repayment Program, which enhances medical care in rural and underserved areas of Oklahoma by administering incentive programs that encourage physician personnel to establish practice in rural and underserved areas.

“Through this unique partnership, we’re able to invest in our rural and tribal communities so Oklahomans have access to quality care, when and where they need it most,” said Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D., president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma. “We congratulate Dr. Tammy M. Tandberg-Willcox on being this year’s recent recipient and bringing accessible health care to the Hugo community. We look forward to working with her and seeing the long-term health impact in this community.”

Chief Medical Officer for the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority (CNHSA), Dr. Jason Hill, is a strong supporter of initiatives for rural health care. Dr. Hill states, “Developing innovative partnerships with private donors like BCBSOK has greatly increased the effectiveness of the PMTC mission of placing physicians in rural, underserved areas of Oklahoma. We here at CNHSA have benefitted from this generous partnership by being able to place physicians in small towns which have historically had difficulty attracting physicians.”

Starting a business like a medical practice in any location is a challenge, but in small economically depressed locations this challenge may be insurmountable for young physicians. The student loan repayment offered to these mostly new physicians is a game-changer and eases their financial strain. In Dr. Hill’s opinion “the student loan repayment program is the single most effective recruiting tool to attract new physicians to rural areas of our state.”

PMTC, as developed under the provisions of Oklahoma State Statutes, became fully functional as of November 1, 1975. For the last 45 years PMTC has worked to improve the balance of physician manpower distribution in the State of Oklahoma, both by type of practice and by geographic location. “This program provides a great opportunity for rural communities to bring much-needed primary care physicians to underserved areas,” said Janie Thompson, executive director for PMTC. “Access to local health care can truly impact the overall success of a patient’s quality of life.”

Dr. Tammy M. Tandberg-Willcox is a recent recipient of a PMTC grant and has established practice in Hugo, Oklahoma. Dr. Tandberg says the grant has done just what it is designed for in her case, “After finishing my residency with the Choctaw Nation Family Medicine Residency program, I decided to stay with Choctaw Nation and work at the Hugo clinic. Receiving the PMTC grant enabled me to stay in the area and practice family medicine, while at the same time easing the burden of my student loan. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work and make a difference in my new community.”

Dr. Tammy M. Tandberg-Willcox at work in the Choctaw Nation Health Clinic in Hugo, Oklahoma (photo by Rylee Tollett/Choctaw Nation)

This is the first time all three organizations have partnered together for an initiative in Indian Country. This is the second year of the program in which BCBSOK and PMTC have participated in the Physician Loan Repayment Program.

Dr. Tammy M. Tandberg-Willcox at the Choctaw Nation Health Clinic in Hugo, Oklahoma (photo by Rylee Tollett/Choctaw Nation)


About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma
Throughout its 80-year history, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma has been committed to meeting the health care financing needs of Oklahomans. As the state’s oldest and largest private health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma provides health care benefit plans for more than 800,000 Oklahomans. For more information, visit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Montana and New Mexico), the country’s largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall. Health Care Service Corporation is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About the Choctaw Nation
The Choctaw Nation is the third-largest Indian Nation in the United States with nearly 200,000 tribal members and more than 10,000 employees. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, the historic boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation’s vision, “Living out the Chahta Spirit of faith, family and culture,” is evident as it continues to focus on providing opportunities for growth and prosperity. For more information about the Choctaw Nation, its culture, heritage and traditions, please go to

About the Physician Manpower Training Commission
PMTC is an Oklahoma State Agency created in 1975 with statutory authority and a 45-year history of administering financial assistance scholarship and incentive programs to recruit and retain primary care health professionals to underserved rural Oklahoma communities, and assisting State university programs in training physicians. For more information about PMTC, please go to


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