Driving Better Health

This latest innovation in healthcare delivery will increase COVID-19 testing availability for hard-to-reach neighborhoods and those areas most affected by virus outbreaks. With support from over $112,000 in grant funding from the CDC Foundation, we’ll be deploying the mobile unit to the Greater Hazleton area, one of Northeast Pennsylvania’s hardest hit regions during the pandemic, to assist with COVID-19 testing, outreach and education.

New Medical Director of Pediatric Services Announced

Pediatrician Maria Alexies Osorio Samonte, M.D., Named Medical Director of The Wright Center’s Pediatric Services

Maria Alexies Osorio Samonte, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician with over 25 years of experience, has been named Medical Director of The Wright Center for Community Health’s Pediatric Services. She will practice at the Mid Valley location, 5 South Washington Ave., Jermyn, where she is accepting new patients, ages newborn to 18 years old.

Prior to joining The Wright Center, Dr. Samonte served as a general pediatrician and Regional Medical Director for Geisinger Northeast Pediatrics. She was also clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Dr. Samonte now assumes the leadership role of Associate Program Director for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s Family Medicine Pediatrics Program.

A Jenkins Twp. resident, Dr. Samonte earned her doctorate degree in medicine and surgery as well as a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines. She also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Scranton. Dr. Samonte completed pediatric residency training at Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago, and fellowship training in pediatric nephrology at Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri. She is a fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the Philippine Medical Association.

The Wright Center offers primary care to all ages at eight clinical sites throughout Northeast Pennsylvania, with four pediatricians, seven family medicine doctors and numerous physician assistants and nurse practitioners who provide comprehensive and preventive health services to children and entire families. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Samonte, families can call 570-230-0019.

Over $1.75M in Grants Received

The Wright Center for Community Health Receives Grants for Over $1.75M from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation

The Wright Center for Community Health recently received a pair of grants from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to help establish a primary care practice in the city’s South Side neighborhood to treat previously underserved patients.

The two grants, totaling $1.75 million, supported the startup of the practice at 501 S. Washington Ave., which offers patients a single location to access comprehensive primary care services, including medical, behavioral and dental care and addiction/recovery services. The practice opened to patients in early December. The site also serves as a hub for The Wright Center’s administrative and graduate medical education activities.

The Weinberg Foundation awarded a $950,000 capital grant to assist in converting the site, a former warehouse, into a clinical primary care space with 30 exam rooms. Six of the exam rooms are dedicated to infectious disease care and the practice also houses four dental operatories. This grant also covered medical equipment, such as ultrasound machines, EKGs and AEDs, and other office necessities.

Simultaneously, the Weinberg Foundation provided an operating grant of $800,000 to be used over two years to support much-needed healthcare provider positions, including a pediatrician, a physician assistant, a nurse practitioner, a dentist and a psychiatrist.

The new practice is expected to annually treat more than 7,000 patients, including underinsured, uninsured and low-income individuals, regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

The Weinberg Foundation, one of the largest private charitable foundations in the United States, is dedicated to meeting the basic needs of people experiencing poverty. In 2020, the Foundation will provide approximately $130 million in grant activity supporting nonprofits, primarily in the US and Israel, which provide direct services in the areas of Housing, Health, Jobs, Education, and Community Services. Grants support organizations that serve a range of populations, including older adults, women at risk and their children, people with disabilities, and veterans, as well as the Jewish community.

Northeast Pennsylvania is one of the foundation’s “priority communities.” The foundation’s prior support has enabled The Wright Center to enhance the oral care clinic at its Mid Valley Practice in Jermyn, and to expand its school-based health center program. Grant funding also allowed The Wright Center for Community Health to successfully attain designation last year as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike.

The Scranton Practice is open Monday through Friday. Appointments can be made by calling 570-941-0630.

Lifestyle Medicine Program Introduced

Evidence-based approach has been shown to prevent, treat, reverse disease

A new medical trend is showing promising results when it comes to preventing and even reversing chronic, debilitating diseases like cancer, diabetes and hypertension that affect Americans at an alarming rate.

No, it’s not a new drug or an improved technology. It’s Lifestyle Medicine and it’s coming soon to a Wright Center for Community Health primary care practice near you.

The Wright Center for Community Health and The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education co-announce the launch of Lifestyle Medicine, one of the fastest growing fields of medicine that focuses on the six pillars of health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, relationships and the avoidance of risky substances. It differs from mainstream medical approaches by emphasizing non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive treatments to prevent, treat and even reverse chronic disease.

“Lifestyle Medicine is an evidence-based, logical and motivational approach to promoting health that has the power to revolutionize health care delivery in America,” said Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, CEO of The Wright Center for Community Health and President of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. “Effective health care reform will require more than determining new payment models for the insurmountable, ever increasing total costs of medical care primarily related to management of acute and chronic diseases, many of which are preventable. Real change in our healthcare industry will require a longview perspective and a care delivery model flip to a significant investment in healthy behaviors and disease prevention.” 

By current estimates, 40% of Americans are affected by chronic diseases and 70% of all American adults are overweight or obese, which increases their risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Nine out of 10 Americans ages 75 and older have at least one chronic illness, and more than 20% suffer from five or more.

This chronic disease burden has placed an enormous strain on the American health care system. It is now estimated that up to 80% of the care provided by primary care physicians involves treatment of diseases that should first be addressed by improving lifestyle choices. The overall cost to the U.S. health care system of unhealthy lifestyles has been estimated at upwards of $3 trillion each year.

“Lifestyle Medicine is about empowering patients to take their wellbeing into their own hands through manageable changes,” explained Robert Naismith, Ph.D., a board member of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. “Life-saving health improvements are within reach, especially when it comes to incorporating a plant-based diet and other positive behaviors recommended by Lifestyle Medicine experts.”

As part of its commitment to responsive and responsible health services, The Wright Center for Community Health will introduce Lifestyle Medicine at all of its nine comprehensive primary care centers throughout Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties. All Wright Center primary care physicians and care teams will incorporate Lifestyle Medicine into their usual practice by introducing motivational support for therapeutic lifestyle interventions for the treatment and prevention of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cancer and more.

Wright Center physicians and providers will complete a thorough patient assessment of current health habits and then introduce and empower individualized treatment plans based on specific risk factors. Treatment plans include but are not limited to improving nutrition – including introducing a predominantly whole-food, plant-based diet – increasing physical activity, managing stress, eliminating tobacco use, and moderating alcohol consumption.

“It’s important to point out that Lifestyle Medicine is not alternative medicine,” Dr. Thomas-Hemak stressed. “It is based on strong evidence of the value of lifestyle interventions in a variety of disease states and does not bring experimental or unproven approaches to the medical care being delivered.”

In addition to incorporating Lifestyle Medicine into patient care, an educational curriculum will be introduced to all physicians in training at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education – including students, residents and fellows  – preparing this next generation of doctors to become eligible for board certification by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine. 

Dr. Jumee Barooah, Designated Institutional Official for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, says the innovative American College of Lifestyle Medicine curriculum being introduced this fall will play a critical role for future practicing primary care and specialty physicians.

“Residency is where a new physician really puts their education to work, so we think immersing these new doctors in evidence-based Lifestyle Medicine on the frontlines of clinical training is not just vital for existing patients, it’s transformative for the future of our health care delivery system,” Dr. Barooah said. “We really want to provide our physician learners with an innovative education that includes true value-based care by improving health outcomes while lowering costs. Our overall graduate medical education program will be greatly strengthened by this pioneering curriculum.”

Gastroenterology Fellowship Program Director Announced

Dr. Gregory H. Enders Appointed Program Director of Wright Center’s Gastroenterology Fellowship Program

Dr. Gregory H. Enders, M.D., Ph.D., a  board-certified gastroenterologist with more than 25 years of experience, has been named Program Director for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s Gastroenterology Fellowship Program.

“Dr. Enders has been a valued member of our dedicated core faculty, but we are excited to welcome him to a leadership role. Our doctors benefit from his wealth of knowledge gathered from decades of experience as a physician, and we’re lucky to have him,” said Dr. Jumee Barooah, Designated Institutional Official for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

The aim of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s Gastroenterology Fellowship Program is to advance the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases of the gastrointestinal and liver organs. Wright Center GI fellows are immersed in health systems throughout Northeast Pennsylvania, including Wright Center for Community Health primary care practices and Moses Taylor and Regional hospitals in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.

A Scranton resident, Dr. Enders earned his doctorate in genetics as well as his medical degree at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he also completed the National Institutes of Health Medical Scientist Training Program. Dr. Enders is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he earned a degree in biology. He completed his residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and his fellowship training in gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He was a clinical and research fellow at Harvard Medical School, where he later served as an instructor. A member of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the American Gastroenterological Association, Dr. Enders previously served as both a medicine and genetics professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and taught at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Temple University. He is a practicing gastroenterologist at Moses Taylor and Regional hospitals and Physicians Health Alliance, all in Scranton.

Director of Resident and Fellow Recruitment Announced

Marina McLaughlin Named Wright Center’s Director of Resident and Fellow Recruitment

Marina McLaughlin, a human resources leader and former registered nurse, has been named Director of Resident and Fellow Recruitment for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

In this leadership role, McLaughlin will recruit physicians from around the country – and around the world – to train within The Wright Center’s graduate medical education programs, including internal medicine, family medicine and psychiatry residencies, as well as cardiology, gastroenterology and geriatrics fellowships. The Wright Center is also adding podiatry and dental residency programs in 2021.

“I’m looking forward to recruiting the best and brightest residents and fellows to ensure the next generation of primary care providers enters the workforce as compassionate, innovative doctors ready to make a real difference in the communities they serve,” McLaughlin said.

Founded in 1976 as the Scranton Temple Residency Program with only six internal medicine residents, The Wright Center has grown into the nation’s largest Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, with more than 200 physician learners currently enrolled in Northeast Pennsylvania community-based, primary care settings as well as four national partnering sites.

Prior to joining The Wright Center, McLaughlin worked in human resources for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, and Westside Family Healthcare, Wilmington, Delaware. She also served as a registered nurse at Medical Center of Kragujevac in Yugoslavia.

A Jefferson Twp. resident, McLaughlin earned a master’s of business administration degree in healthcare administration and a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Wilmington University. She also earned an associate degree in nursing from Medical Boarding School, Yugoslavia.