The Wright Center and NYU Langone Dental Medicine to Introduce Scranton Dental Residency Program

The Wright Center for Community Health is pleased to announce it will welcome its first dental resident in July 2021 as part of a new affiliation with New York University (NYU) Langone Dental Medicine Postdoctoral Residency Programs, the largest dental residency program in the country.

NYU Langone Dental Medicine was designed to educate residents in primary dental care for vulnerable patients and underserved areas while providing culturally competent health care to socially and economically-disadvantaged residents in the region. The Wright Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike with a growing network of practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties, provides safety-net primary care services, including dental care, to people of all ages regardless of insured status or ability to pay.

“This new program will build on our ongoing efforts to address persistent health disparities and difficulties in accessing oral health care for at-risk patients in Northeast Pennsylvania,” said Meaghan Ruddy, Ph.D., The Wright Center’s Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs. “It is our plan that program graduates will also receive advanced knowledge, skills and experiences to best serve children and adults who need these services the most.”

The lack of fluoridated water in Northeast Pennsylvania, coupled with poor nutrition and lack of education on the importance of oral health, has resulted in a critical need for dental care access for disadvantaged communities. Lackawanna County is also designated by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as a Health Professional Shortage Area, meaning it suffers from a critical shortage of dentists, primary care physicians and mental health providers.

“During the pandemic, even with the successful launch of telehealth services for our dental patients, many people put their oral health on hold,” explained Kimberly McGoff, Manager of Dental Operations for The Wright Center. “As more people are getting vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we’ve seen an overwhelming rise in requests for dental appointments — an increase of more than 30% since January alone. In order to meet the higher demand, our dentists and staff are coming in on their days off to help meet the region’s needs.”

In response, The Wright Center is also actively recruiting two more full-time dental providers, with a new dentist set to join the care team in August. Additionally, The Wright Center’s new mobile medical unit, Driving Better Health, is equipped with two full dental operatories and will offer pop-up dental clinics in both rural and urban settings throughout a seven-county Northeast Pennsylvania service area.

By training tomorrow’s doctors today in community-immersed clinical learning environments that serve diverse and medically underserved populations, The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education is creating the health workforce pipeline America needs while addressing the country’s growing primary care provider shortage. Research shows that more than 90% of graduates who trained in Teaching Health Centers, like The Wright Center, remain in primary care practice, and more than 75% plan to work in underserved communities. The dental residency is the newest addition to The Wright Center’s robust physician learner programming, which also includes internal medicine, family medicine and psychiatry residencies as well as gastroenterology, geriatric and cardiovascular disease fellowships. The Wright Center is the nation’s largest Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education consortium, with close to 250 physician learners gaining hands-on training throughout Northeast Pennsylvania and in partnering sites in Washington state, Arizona, Ohio and Washington, D.C.