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Press Release

Release Date: November 19, 2020
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lieutenant Commander Kayla Dewitt, a Chickasaw citizen, is continuing a family legacy of service to First Americans and earning recognition from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) for her efforts.

Lt. Cmdr. Dewitt’s hard work and commitment to excellence earned her the award of “Junior Officer of the Year” by the USPHS American Indian/Alaska Native Commissioned Officer Advisory Committee.

“It’s an honor to receive this award,” she said. “I want to thank the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, the Indian Health Service, and my family for their encouragement and support. I hope I can continue serving First Americans for many, many more years.”

Her father, Rear Admiral Kevin Meeks (ret.), was instrumental in the management and improvement of the Indian Health Service (IHS) in Oklahoma during his 32- year career in the USPHS.

“My family, especially my parents, have been the biggest mentors and influences in my life,” Lt. Cmdr. Dewitt said. “They are my biggest encouragers and always pushed me to be the best I could be. My mom is the one that homeschooled me and gave me the basis of my educational foundation. My dad, being an officer himself, laid the road map for the kind of officer I strive to be and had very high expectations for all of us. We always knew that failure was not an option.”

As a teen, Kayla Dewitt wanted to pursue physical therapy as a career. She grew up playing sports and suffered injuries that required physical therapy.

“Physical therapy allowed me to recuperate and heal faster, and allowed me to resume a normal, active lifestyle,” she said. “I have always had a heart for helping people and after experiencing physical therapy first hand, I knew that was my calling.”

She was homeschooled through high school and attended East Central University in Ada, Okla., from 2006 to 2009.

After her junior year at East Central, she received early admission to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She also received an IHS scholarship.

She was awarded a bachelor’s of science degree in health studies from the University of Oklahoma in 2010. She then went on to earn a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and graduated in 2012.

Upon graduation, she began work for the IHS at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic. She was brought on as the facility’s first physical therapist and has been serving First Americans for eight years.

“I was responsible for determining equipment needs and developing the physical layout of the new physical therapy clinic,” she said. “Due to the growth of the program and patient needs, we expanded the clinic space a second time and increased staff while continuing to provide quality care.”

Lt. Cmdr. Dewitt is also a certified fall prevention specialist and currently enrolled in a Therapeutic Pain Specialist certification program with a projected completion date of March 2021.

She said the Chickasaw Nation Higher Education grants and scholarship programs were essential in helping her pursue her educational dreams.

After working at the Oklahoma City clinic for a year, she was commissioned a Lieutenant in the USPHS Commissioned Corps Aug. 9, 2013. She has since received a promotion and has served in the USPHS for seven years.

The Commissioned Corps has a rigorous application process. The USPHS has approximately 6,000 officers on various assignments worldwide and roughly one-third of those officers serve the Native American population. All eleven professional categories are medical related and each category has its own specific requirements.

After being accepted to the corps and finding a job within the appropriate government agency, officers attend a basics course and then begin performing their jobs at their respective locations.

“As an officer, I am not only responsible for my day job as a physical therapist but I also am responsible for maintaining additional standards as an officer,” Lt. Cmdr. Dewitt said. “For example, officers are required to stay in a constant state of readiness in the event we are deployed, we must maintain physical fitness standards, and of course, proper uniform wear and appearance.”

As a Chickasaw citizen, Lt. Cmdr. Dewitt feels strongly about giving back to First Americans.

“The Chickasaw Nation has always supported me in my school and career goals,” she said. “The Chickasaw Nation is a very supportive tribe and they have inspired me to want to give back to the people by providing quality care to enhance the lives of those who need physical therapy services.”

Her commitment to First Americans and their health is evident in all of her work as a physical therapist and is a primary focus of hers.

“I’m passionate about promoting, protecting, and advancing the health of the Native American population, she said.

“I was fortunate enough to have people that cared about my health and wellbeing growing up. When I had injuries, I always had someone in my corner encouraging me not to give up and to work hard towards my end goals. I want to be that person to my patients so they know I’m on their side and will be there to walk them through the good and bad to reach their ultimate goal.”

As for future goals, she has set her sights on becoming certified in aquatic therapy. She would like to continue to expand physical therapy services in areas of home health and aquatic physical therapy to the Native American population in Oklahoma City and the surrounding metropolitan area.

Lt. Cmdr. Dewitt, 33, and her husband Cody Dewitt, have two children, Miles and Addison Dewitt. Lt. Cmdr. Dewitt is the daughter of Rear Admiral Kevin Meeks (ret.) and Janice Meeks. Her siblings are Alicia Meeks Boatwright and Cole Meeks.