Enthusiasm for a new venture

Thank you for welcoming the Wright Center for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education to Wilkes-Barre

Over the next few months, residents of Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding Wyoming Valley communities will see significant exciting activity at 169 North Pennsylvania Ave. notice – a professional building being converted into a primary care clinic and center of excellence for human resource development just a few blocks from Public Square.

The Wright Center for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education is excited about this effort to build a Federal Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike Teaching Health Center in Luzerne County because we are staunch enthusiasts of primary care, medical education and public health .

Together with our like-minded community partners, we are building a preferred future where everyone in the United States benefits from a national healthcare system that prioritizes equity, quality, and affordability of comprehensive healthcare services and career opportunities. To pursue this vision, the Wright Center’s Graduate Medical Education Safety Net Consortium is an “everyone can reach” model for providing holistic primary health care services and cost-effective workforce development. This model leverages inclusive partnerships and the belief that interprofessional education and clinical education improve healthcare and medical education systems to make them work better for everyone.

We are moving closer to our goal for our clinical healthcare delivery and education systems thanks to the rush to quickly convert the 34,000 square foot building into our FQHC Look Alike Teaching Health Center in Wilkes-Barre – an initiative that serves as a symbol of our ongoing Investing in the overall health and well-being of Luzerne County. We are upgrading the facility in phases, and residents of all ages from the area will soon have access to comprehensive, affordable, integrated primary and preventive healthcare services in our new, state-of-the-art practice.

This mission-driven project has been quietly in the works for months. Thanks to the combined efforts of Mayor George Brown and the city council, legislative leaders and staff, the Diamond City Partnership and other community partners, the Wright Center was able to identify and acquire this well-situated property from King’s College. Collective support also made it possible to receive timely Zoning Board and Planning Commission approval and a grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

This endeavor will allow us to expand our mission to increase access to quality, indiscriminate and universal healthcare for everyone, regardless of their insurance status, zip code or income bracket. Our sliding rebate program—based on household size and family income—ensures our medical, dental, behavioral health, addiction and recovery, infectious disease, and specialty services are affordable for all. No patient is ever turned away from professional services for inability to pay.

We also seek to eliminate unnecessary suffering from costly chronic diseases by focusing on preventive care, ensuring access to treatment for both acute and chronic diseases, and healthy behaviors through restorative, primary care-integrated nutrition, lifestyle medicine, obesity medicine and school-based Health enable service lines.

The educational aspect of our mission aims to alleviate the national shortage and maldistribution of primary care physicians by building a sustainable workforce pipeline that recruits from communities like ours in Northeast Pennsylvania who are served to develop inspired, competent physicians who have the privilege of serving. In addition to providing primary care, our new Wilkes-Barre location will also expand clinical education opportunities for physicians enrolled in the eight residency and fellowship programs at the Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education and for interprofessional students from nearly a dozen academic institutional settings .

The Wright Center is not new to Luzerne County. We have been a community partner for many years, operating small but impactful practices in the city and in Kingston. We have been passionate about working with community cornerstones such as The Institute, Northeast Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center, United Way of Wyoming Valley, AllOne Foundation, Hazleton Integration Project and numerous school districts and social services to improve the health and well-being of our area .

Our history goes back almost half a century. Our predecessor organization, the Scranton-Temple Residency Program, was founded in 1976 and soon began training its first class of six internal medicine residents. From those humble beginnings, the Wright Center has evolved responsibly and today educates hundreds of physicians and interprofessional health students annually while providing high-quality primary care services to nearly 35,000 patients in response to well-documented community health needs. Today we have more than 650 employees, including almost 250 medical students.

Funded by the US Health Resources and Services Administration, the Wright Center is the largest safety net consortium for teaching health centers in our country, and its influence stretches from coast to coast. Working in partnership with four like-minded Federally Qualified Health Centers in Washington DC, Ohio, Arizona and Washington, our National Family Medicine Residency operates as a unique Community Health Academic Medical Partnership that trains community-focused physicians who express an interest in serving the vulnerable and historically medically underserved communities.

As renovations begin at Wilkes-Barre, we felt it was important to provide this overview of our not-for-profit company and its endeavors. We look forward to continuing to strengthen and expand our network of partners to work together toward better health outcomes and advance health equity in all communities we serve. We look forward to meeting new partners in Luzerne County.

It is a privilege for the Wright Center to establish a federally qualified health center in Wilkes-Barre that is similar to a clinical training and learning center. We’re proud to be in the neighborhood and to be part of the collective effort to make downtown Wilkes-Barre and the Wyoming Valley an even more vibrant and healthy place to live, work and relax. We look forward to keeping you updated on the development of our building plans and we are getting closer to opening our doors to you, your family and your friends.

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Linda Thomas-Hemak, MD, FACP, FAAP, is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education.

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