Robyn Sunday-Allen, Cherokee, RN, MPH, the current CEO of the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, says she has always had a passion for serving the Native American community and for medical services.
Sunday-Allen was not only born at the Claremore Indian Hospital, but she also says as a child she spent a lot of time playing in the halls of the hospital because her mother worked there. Her maternal grandparents also received care there for diabetes.
“As a result, I grew up in hallways of what was then the ‘old’ Claremore Indian Hospital,” says Sunday-Allen.
It was that early, positive experience that cemented her desire to pursue a medical career and to work in Indian health.
“I went to the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing on an Indian Health Service scholarship,” says Sunday-Allen. “For every year they paid for my school, I owed a year of service in Indian Health. I was fortunate enough to start right out of OU at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic. My scholarship payback was up 15 years ago, but I love my job, and it is hard to imagine working anywhere else.”
Throughout the years, the clinic has grown significantly. Established in 1974 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, the clinic serves the urban Native American population of central Oklahoma. In 1995, Sunday-Allen worked as a registered nurse there. She was subsequently promoted to nurse manager of health services in 1997, to chief operating officer in 2001, and to chief executive officer in early 2009.
“I’m proof that the clinic is very supportive of its staff and wants to further their education,” says Sunday-Allen. “I’ve always had big dreams for myself and the clinic.”
Sunday-Allen says her background in nursing really helped set the stage for her success as CEO.
“I chose nursing because I wanted a profession where you really got to know your patients and their families and to be able to spend ample time with them,” says Sunday-Allen. “I really enjoy the patient education component of nursing that you don’t often get to do in other medical fields.”
As a consequence, she says she understands more than just the business side of running the clinic.
“For me, it is more than the bottom line that matters,” says Sunday-Allen. “It is patient satisfaction and outcomes that matter most. If patients are happy and know they are receiving quality care, they will return for services, and the revenues will come.”
Today, she and her staff of more than 130 nurses, physicians and support staff provide comprehensive medical and behavioral health services to nearly 17,000 people per year. It is an award-winning clinic, with its diabetes program setting national standards.
“It is vital to the metro-area health systems that we exist because there is no hospital, emergency room, clinic, health department, etc. that could absorb the number of patients that we serve,” says Sunday-Allen.
The future continues to look bright.
“We just purchased another 38,000 square-foot building that is one-tenth of a mile from our existing 27,000 square foot facility, giving us 65,000 square feet for services,” says Sunday-Allen.
Her immediate goal as CEO is to have a pharmacy built with drive-through capabilities on the existing property. Her long-term goal is to grow the overall clinic into a 150,000 square foot medical complex that will meet a large demand for medical services projected for the year 2020.
“We work hard to provide valuable health care services and do this with local funding,” says Sunday-Allen. “It is my mission, and that of the staff at OKCIC, to provide quality, comprehensive health and social services for underserved urban Indians and we do a great job.”