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September 9, 2015
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New faces, Dr. James Prise and Debbie Skillings greet CPN West Clinic patients

CPN Health Services’ continued expansion of healthcare offerings has also increased the need for more providers at the east and west clinics. Two new faces at the CPN West Clinic are Licensed Practical Nurse Debbie Skillings and Dr. James Prise, who joined the long list of exceptional health providers serving Tribal members, employees and non-Nativespouses.

Skillings, who has lived in the area since the age of ten, explained that her new position brings her closer to her home in Tecumseh and is just another professional step in her lifelong work of giving back to those in need.

“I got into nursing because I wanted to help people,” said Skillings. “I worked in internal medicine for 20 years and loved working in geriatrics especially. The majority of patients are so sweet and you get excited visiting with them, and I really enjoy that.”

Skillings and Dr. Prise both come to CPN Health Services from St. Anthony Physicians in Choctaw. Dr. Prise was born in Scotland, near Aberdeen, before a move to Canada as a child when his father pursued better work opportunities. He grew up and attended medical school in his adopted home, and worked as a community doctor in the cottage country of Manitoba.

“I wore a lot of hats, but after a while I realized those 80-hour work weeks were getting long, while the winters were getting even longer,” he explained.

In search of new horizons, Dr. Prise again crossed international borders, this time headed straight south after a recommendation from a former Canadian colleague who had relocated to a practice in Winfield, Kansas. Passing through the Sunflower State, Dr. Prise settled in Oklahoma in 1995 and partnered in a private practice before serving 18 years with St. Anthony Hospital in central Oklahoma.

Dr. Prise’s experience in the Canadian and American medical fields also offered him a unique perspective on the latter’s national debate on the efficacy of modern healthcare systems.

“Both have their pros and cons,” said Dr. Prise. “Most people up north are satisfied with their healthcare because there’s a safety net; everybody has it. Coming to CPN, it’s almost like anybody who has their CDIB card; they have that same safety net.”

Nearing two decades with St. Anthony though, Dr. Prise learned about the recently opened CPN West Clinic from a former colleague and current employee of CPN Health Services, Dr. George Adam Vascellaro.

“When someone like that, in terms of how we practice similarly, makes the recommendation like Dr. Vascellaro
did, I thought to myself ‘There’s got to be something here.’”

As he explained, within a few days he and Skillings – who had worked with him at St. Anthony – were the CPN West Clinic’s newest healthcare providers. It’s a change of pace for the pair, but as Dr. Prise points out, calling the steady flow of patients at the Tribal health clinics ‘busy’ is a relative term.

“Compared to my private practice in Canada, where there were so many more patients than providers, we were basically working triage. If a person came in, you dealt with that problem instead of trying to go down a laundry list of causes. Here, the emphasis seems to be on quality.”

CPN Health Service ensures all eligible patients as outlined by the Indian Health Service have access to excellent, comprehensive healthcare services as well as those within the Citizen Potawatomi Nation family, such as employees, their families and Tribal member spouses. If you would like to learn more about CPN Health Services, please visit http://www.potawatomi.org/services/health or call (405) 878-4693.