The Wright Center Offers Updated Vaccines

To help people guard against a potential triple threat of respiratory infections this fall and winter, The Wright Center for Community Health is offering access to newly updated vaccines for flu, RSV and the latest COVID-19 strain.

“The vaccines are safe and effective, and they offer our best defense against these ‘seasonal viruses’ that can be extremely serious, even fatal, for very young children and other vulnerable populations,” says Dr. William Dempsey, deputy chief medical officer of The Wright Center for Community Health.

To schedule an office visit that includes a vaccination, call 570-230-0019 or go online to use the express scheduling system at Please note, shipments of the most recently approved COVID-19 vaccine are not expected to arrive at The Wright Center’s primary and preventive care practices in Northeast Pennsylvania until the week of Sept. 18.

Here’s what to know about the availability at The Wright Center of each vaccine product.

Flu vaccines. Updated flu vaccines for the 2023-24 winter season are in stock at all of the health center’s primary care practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties. Health officials recommend annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older, with few exceptions.

Experts advise that people in the United States get vaccinated between now and Halloween for maximum protection during the winter holidays when influenza cases tend to spike. All flu vaccines available in the U.S. for this season are the quadrivalent variety, meaning they are designed to protect against four different flu viruses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RSV vaccines. Earlier this year, federal health officials approved two vaccines for use in people ages 60 and older to prevent respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV. The Wright Center currently has the Pfizer-manufactured vaccine, Abrysvo, in stock at all of its practices to administer to seniors who decide, in consultation with a health care provider, if the shot is appropriate for them. Adults most likely to benefit from the vaccine include those living in long-term care facilities and those who have underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease or weakened immune systems.

The new RSV vaccines for seniors might require a prescription from a doctor, according to published reports, and its cost may vary based on the patient’s health insurance plan. Some plans might not pay for the shot. Anyone concerned about coverage should reach out to their insurance company for guidance.

COVID-19 vaccines. As shipments arrive of the most recently approved COVID-19 vaccine, which is effective against the now-dominant EG.5 strain, The Wright Center will release additional public announcements. Watch for details to be shared soon via the health center’s website and social media channels.

Guidance about staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and proper dosing is available on the CDC’s website.

If you have questions about any vaccine, talk with your primary care physician or another trusted health care provider. The clinical team at The Wright Center is available to provide fact-based advice and proven strategies for coping with respiratory viruses and other issues that affect health and wellness.

Learn more about The Wright Center’s mission and integrated health care services by visiting

The Wright Center Offers Training to Jump-start Career in Health Care

In one word, Melissa Lemus can sum up why she applied to the National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement while trying to jump-start her career and land a job as a medical assistant.

“Flexibility,” she says.

As a single mother of two, the Scranton resident needed a training program to propel her toward her goals while not breaking her budget or forcing her to quit her day job to take classes. The institute’s program offered Lemus the best of everything: lower tuition and lots of freedom to set her own schedule.

“The classes are online,” she says. “I was able to work during the day, then go home, take care of my kids, and do online coursework. It was a lot to juggle. But I knew I could do it.”

Lemus, 28, became the first person to complete the institute’s program through a training partnership with The Wright Center for Community Health. She graduated from the program in October 2022 and started a full-time job as a certified clinical medical assistant (MA) in the same building where she trained – The Wright Center for Community Health Scranton Practice.

The institute, based in Denver, Colorado, partners with health centers nationwide to offer job-training opportunities to people in their home communities. Its program is designed to allow participants to become medical assistants faster and at less cost than many other MA programs, typically preparing a student to sit for the credentialing exam in about eight months. The career-launching program now costs less than $7,500.

While enrolled, Lemus received weekly instruction via computer, plus hands-on experience during her externship hours at The Wright Center’s primary care practice in Scranton’s South Side, where she could immediately apply her newfound skills.

Today, the Scranton High School alumna is “thriving” in her new job role, according to her manager.

“Melissa is still a new employee, but she’s already so seasoned,” says Amber Bello, co-assistant manager of medical assistants at The Wright Center. “She was able to live the MA life while learning the life.”

Bello serves as a site facilitator for the institute, which is commonly referred to by its initials, NIMAA.

“NIMAA is great,” she says. “All of their instructors have been awesome in communicating with me. I am able to reach out to them with any questions or concerns.”

So far, Bello, 28, has guided two people through the externship portion of the NIMAA program at The Wright Center, and two more are expected to finish in October 2023. She quickly became a fan of the institute and its training method, so she joined its advisory board.

MAs ‘vital’ to health care team

Medical assistants play a central role in today’s health centers, where care is typically delivered by a team. Lemus is one of about a dozen MAs who work at the Scranton Practice, greeting and ushering patients to exam rooms and performing essential tasks that support physicians and other providers while promoting patient wellness.

The duties go far beyond measuring patients’ vital signs. Lemus and her fellow MAs at The Wright Center sometimes draw blood samples, perform annual screenings, vaccinate children, educate individuals on topics such as diabetes management, and prepare patients to be seen by a doctor or other clinician.

“I feel like we are vital to the team,” says Lemus. “We are the first ones to see the patient. We’re the first ones to get a sense of how they’re feeling. And, sometimes, they really open up to you.”

Lemus, who speaks both English and Spanish, feels a sense of satisfaction each time she successfully connects a patient to the right treatment or service or simply offers comfort and understanding with her translation skills.

“There are a lot of moms who come to our clinic and who don’t speak English,” she explains. “They might not have taken their kids to a primary care provider in a long time because of a language barrier in scheduling an appointment and things like that. So, when they come in and are able to get the help they need, it’s good.

“You feel like you’re really doing something – something positive,” she says.

In early 2022, Lemus was determined to become a medical assistant and would have been willing to deplete her emergency savings to participate in the NIMAA program, she says. Instead, she was thrilled to learn she was eligible for financial support that defrayed much of the cost.

Formerly employed as a caregiver in the area, Lemus considers her MA certification to be a major step toward her ultimate career goal of becoming a registered nurse – something she’s been thinking about since middle school.

Finding her niche in a new country

Lemus, a native of Honduras, left Central America when she was about 8 years old. Her maternal grandmother was a midwife there who favored natural approaches and was said to possess a rich knowledge of the healing properties of herbs and other plants.

Aside from her grandmother, Lemus had no immediate family members working in health care to serve as role models. She got a bumpy start in U.S. schools because she initially spoke little English. After only a few years, however, she became fluent and began to form ideas about her life after high school.

“When I was in sixth grade, our science teacher gave us an assignment to write about what we wanted to be in the future,” she recalls. “We had to do some research. I always found myself looking at the nursing careers.”

After high school, she considered enrolling in college. Then motherhood became her priority. Today, she is the parent of an 8-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. To support her young family, Lemus previously trained as a certified nursing assistant and took a series of caregiving jobs, including a stint at an Alzheimer’s and dementia care facility. The work was difficult at times, but the experience taught Lemus she was indeed meant to be in the health care field.

The NIMAA program had a similar impact on her. After finishing the program, Lemus took an MA credentialing exam on a Friday morning at a testing site in Lackawanna County. “I had to wait until the following week to get the results,” she recalls. “I was nervous the whole time.”

She didn’t want to disappoint herself, much less her Wright Center manager or her own family members, some of whom had helped by providing child care. By Monday, Lemus was checking her cellphone every five to 10 minutes to see if her exam results had been released.

Finally, just as she got her kids in the car to make a short trip, the news arrived: She had passed.

“I was in shock,” she says. “I told my family, ‘I can’t drive like this. I need to take at least 10 minutes.’”

Looking back on the journey that led her to The Wright Center, Lemus knows she made the right choice by picking NIMAA and getting her MA certification.

“It was a big deal,” she says. “For me, it was another confirmation that I’m on the right path.”

Doctor Joins The Wright Center

The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education have named Dr. Richard Weinberger as deputy director for Allied and John Heinz Services and core faculty for the Internal Medicine and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Residency programs.

He will oversee the development and execution of strategies to enhance The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s programs at Allied and John Heinz as deputy director. He will also assist the designated institutional official in assessing, implementing, and developing new graduate medical education programs and will serve on the Graduate Medical Education Committee.

In addition, Dr. Weinberger will serve as a core faculty member of the Internal Medicine and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Residency programs. In that role, he will treat patients and supervise resident physicians, medical students, and interprofessional health learners at The Wright Center for Community Health and Allied and John Heinz clinical learning environments. He will also see patients at The Wright Center for Community Health Mid Valley Practice in Jermyn.

Dr. Weinberger is board certified in internal medicine and geriatric medicine and a fellow of both the American College of Physicians and American College of Osteopathic Internists. He has a long history with The Wright Center. After graduating from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, he completed his internal medicine residency at the Scranton-Temple Residency program, the precursor to The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. For decades, he has worked in private practices in Lackawanna County, most recently with Horizon Medical Corp.

For more information about the locations and services provided by The Wright Center for Community Health, go to or call 570-230-0019. Call 570.866-3017 or email for more information about The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

Wright Center Names Deputy Chief Operating Officer

The Wright Center for Community Health has named Marianne Linko, LPN, as the deputy chief operating officer and LPN care coordinator. 

Linko will oversee integrated service lines for dental, lifestyle modification, infectious disease, geriatrics, and behavioral health operations at The Wright Center’s practices, including our new North Scranton Practice and mobile medical and dental unit, Driving Better Health, while providing direction and supervision to staff. 

She will supervise the director of dental operations and practice managers for the Mid Valley and Wilkes-Barre practices, the site coordinator at the North Scranton Practice, the nurse manager/site coordinator at the North Pocono and North Scranton practices, and the site coordinators for Driving Better Health and School-Based Health at the West Scranton Intermediate School. 

Linko earned her licensed practical nurse certification from Scranton’s Career Technology Center in 2009. She joined The Wright Center for Community Health in 2011 as a licensed practical nurse at the Mid Valley Practice. Since then, she’s served in several leadership positions, taking over as practice manager at the Mid Valley Practice in 2021.  

Over the years, she has been recognized many times for her excellent work, including being named as one of the “20 Under 40” by the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal in 2021. 

The Wright Center for Community Health’s patient-centered medical home has 10 locations in Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wayne counties that serve more than 40,0000 unique patients annually and ensures everyone in the service area has access to integrated, high-quality, affordable health services, regardless of their insurance status, ZIP code, or ability to pay.

For more information about the services provided by The Wright Center for Community Health or the nearest practice location, go to or call 570.230.0019.

Car Show to Benefit Patients of The Wright Center for Community Health

The Wright Center for Patient & Community Engagement Health will host the second annual “Road to Recovery” car show from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, at Nay Aug Park.

The event is at the Miami Pavilion near the Everhart Museum. Registration, which costs $10 per vehicle and $5 per motorcycle, begins at 8 a.m. Admission is free. The family-friendly fundraiser also features prizes, music, raffles, food trucks, games, and much more. In addition, other addiction treatment facilities from around the region will be invited to set up informational tables at the event.

Just like last year, proceeds raised from the car show will be used to help patients of The Wright Center for Community Health’s Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence with transportation to and from appointments. Pennsylvania designated The Wright Center for Community Health as an Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence in 2017 – one of 50 in the state. Patients can visit any of The Wright Center’s primary care practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne, or Wayne counties to connect with supportive certified recovery specialists, case managers, social workers, and medical providers who help them break the cycle of addiction through outpatient care.

“Transportation remains the highest need for our patients in Northeast Pennsylvania and those across the country,” said Kara Seitzinger, executive director of Public Affairs at The Wright Center. “The lack of reliable transportation is a real barrier to care. If you cannot get to your medical provider, you cannot receive the necessary care and support services The Wright Center has available for this patient population.”

In addition to supporting the Center of Excellence’s patients with transportation needs, the car show also raises awareness about the services The Wright Center for Community Health and other regional organizations offer, according to Scott Constantini, associate vice president of primary care and recovery services integration at The Wright Center.

“For me, the best part is the people who come out to support the cause,” Constantini said. “It’s bringing people together with a passion for recovery treatment.”

More information about the center and its addiction and recovery services is available at

The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education awarded federal grants to plan and develop residency programs in pediatric dentistry, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology

Scranton, Pa. (April 5, 2023) – The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education have been awarded three grant awards totaling $1.5 million from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for the planning and development of three residency programs, further expanding and enriching physician training opportunities in Northeast Pennsylvania.

As a nearly 50-year-old nonprofit enterprise providing graduate medical education and primary health services in Northeastern Pennsylvania, The Wright Center, along with partnering institutions and community providers, intends to explore establishing accredited residency programs in pediatric dentistry, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

“We are grateful for the high-impact financial support from HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce and Congressman Cartwright’s reliable leadership support for our mission and our region,” said Dr. Jumee Barooah, The Wright Center’s designated institutional official. “These graduate medical education planning and development grants will allow The Wright Center to invite and convene inclusive community stakeholders to strategic planning conversations inspired by a shared understanding of the impact of these training programs to increase access to primary health services and future career opportunities for children and adults in the communities we serve.”

This federal grant funding was made available through HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce Teaching Health Center Planning and Development Program, using appropriations from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The initiative is intended to strengthen and expand community-based residency programs in rural and other medically underserved communities across the United States.

HRSA’s Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education funding is allocated specifically for physician and dental training that includes community-based and governed care settings, such as The Wright Center for Community Health’s Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike venues. The training opportunities created for these residents help to expand and improve the distribution of the nation’s primary health services workforce beyond affluent urban areas to economically disadvantaged areas.

As a grant awardee, The Wright Center may apply its funding to startup costs, including planning meetings, curriculum development, recruitment and training of residents and faculty, and necessary activities related to obtaining program accreditation from either the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

The successful introduction of these programs will represent another milestone in The Wright Center’s continued strategic growth as a generator of compassionate, highly skilled, and patient-centered physicians who can help to address the region’s and nation’s ongoing health care services inequities and workforce shortages.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1976 as the Scranton-Temple Residency Program. A year later, it welcomed its first class of six internal medicine residents. Since then, the organization has been renamed and has grown in size and scope to reflect the community’s – and the country’s – evolving needs. It now trains about 250 residents and fellows each academic year in the region and at partner training sites in Arizona, Ohio, Washington state, and Washington, D.C.

The Wright Center currently offers residencies in internal medicine, family medicine, physical medicine & rehabilitation, and psychiatry, as well as fellowships in cardiovascular disease, gastroenterology, and geriatrics. All of its residency and fellowship programs are accredited by the ACGME.

Additionally, in partnership with NYU Langone Dental Medicine, The Wright Center has served as a training site since 2021 for dentists in an Advanced Education in General Dental Residency Program.

To learn more about the medical education opportunities at The Wright Center, visit

The Wright Center names CRNP for Mid Valley Practice

Maggie Dempsey, R.N., BSN, MSN, of Dunmore, has joined The Wright Center for Community Health as a certified registered nurse practitioner at the Mid Valley Practice, 5 S. Washington Ave., Jermyn. She will see patients of all ages.

Dempsey received a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree from Drexel University and Master of Science in nursing degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining The Wright Center for Community Health, she worked as a registered nurse at medical centers in Philadelphia and Scranton.

She holds a certification as a family nurse practitioner from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, as well as certifications in basic, coronary, and advanced life support from the American Heart Association. As a certified registered nurse practitioner, Dempsey will provide primary health care services, including the assessment and management of patient care through The Wright Center’s patient-centered medical home model that places patients at the forefront of their care and delivers high-quality, affordable health care with a coordinated team-based approach.

The Wright Center for Community Health provides integrated care at convenient locations in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties. The nonprofit’s network of nine primary care clinics provides patients with the convenience of going to a single location to access medical, dental, behavioral health, and addiction and recovery services, as well as other supportive service lines. With a sliding-fee discount program available, The Wright Center reduces barriers to care by ensuring health care is affordable for everyone in need, regardless of their ability pay.

Patients can schedule appointments at the most convenient location by using the express online scheduling service at To learn more about The Wright Center’s mission and integrated health care services, call 570-230-0019 or visit

Scranton Area Community Foundation Grant supports The Wright Center

The Wright Center for Community Health was recently awarded a $3,000 grant by the Scranton Area Community Foundation in support of the collaborative Healthy Maternal Opiate Medical Support program (Healthy MOMS) that focuses on helping pregnant women and new mothers overcome addiction and embrace a life in recovery.

Through the CHILDCARE Helps MOMS work program, the grant will support working mothers in the Healthy MOMS program who need assistance paying for emergency child care costs. The program provides financial assistance so mothers can return to work, closing the gap until the mother receives subsidized child care assistance. The grant will be able to fund 67 weeks of child care.

The project fulfills an unmet need by providing financial assistance for mothers in the Healthy MOMS program who are seeking to return and remain in the workforce. In addition, Healthy MOMS participants are offered blanket services that include medication-assisted treatment and addiction services, counseling, primary health care, OB-GYN care, parenting tips, legal advice and a range of other supports. The program promotes the well-being of both mom and newborn, ideally engaging them in wrap-around services until the child turns 2 years old.

Launched in 2018, the program serves Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. To date, Healthy MOMS has supported more than 300 mothers and 189 babies.

“We are grateful for the Scranton Area Community Foundation’s financial support and the community partnerships that enable this program to touch two generations in our regional communities,” said Maria Kolcharno, the director of addiction services and a leader of the Healthy MOMS program at The Wright Center. “The lack of affordable child care continues to be a challenge for women enrolled in Healthy MOMS.”

In addition to primary care, oral health and women’s health services, The Healthy MOMS program realizes that mothers with substance use disorder would be identified via Social Services, such as the local Child Welfare Office, via the legal system, and by additional MAT providers in the area. Mothers who enter the Healthy MOMS program always have a choice as to who their medical providers will be.    

For more information about the Healthy MOMS program, call 570-955-7821 or visit

The Wright Center, Kolcharno Presents at Meeting

Maria Kolcharno, LSW, director of addiction services and leader of the Healthy Maternal Opiate Medical Support (MOMS) program at The Wright Center for Community Health, recently outlined the novel program to participants at the Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative Virtual Meeting.

Kolcharno addressed the importance of collaborative relationships for making referrals and establishing communication pathways between OB/GYN and medication-assisted treatment providers to coordinate patient care for mothers with substance use disorder.

“In 2016, The Wright Center began a journey to offer opiate use disorder treatment. When it started, there was a large influx of pregnant women with substance use disorder coming into the program,” Kolcharno said. “Our leadership team looked at how we can better serve people who have so many needs. They were not coming in just for counseling. They were experiencing food insecurity, lack of safe housing, and they weren’t receiving the medical care they needed. Our Healthy MOMS program grew from the needs of the women in our community.”

During the event’s breakout session, Kolcharno provided workflow charts to assist organizations looking to replicate the relationships and processes the Healthy MOMS program has established with maternity care times and medical Centers of Excellence.

Part of that process involved visiting birth hospitals to meet with labor and delivery nurses and doctors to introduce them to the Healthy MOMS program. “The biggest part was talking about the stigma of being a mother with a substance use disorder and being pregnant. It’s two things people never want to hear together – pregnant and addicted to a substance,” said Kolcharno.

The labor and delivery staffs were open about their feelings for treating the patient population and the ways in which they can offer support to the new mothers. Out of these conversations, a small, but effective tool, was designed by providers: A Healthy MOMS pin. According to Kolcharno, when mothers in the program see the pin, they know the nurses are an extension of the Healthy MOMS program that has become an integral part of their lives.

Part of The Wright Center’s Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence, the Healthy MOMS program was co-founded with multiple agencies to assist women who are pregnant and have a substance use disorder. Healthy MOMS provides prenatal, perinatal, and postpartum care, including medication-assisted treatment to women coping with a substance use disorder, and strives to break the stigma associated with the disorder while building their self-esteem during and after their pregnancies, ideally engaging them in recovery support services. Currently there are 142 mothers active in the program, with 206 babies born through the program. Since its founding, more than 300 mothers have participated in the program.

The Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative includes more than 60 birthing hospitals and newborn intensive care units and over 10 health plans across the state. Overall, the organization works to reduce maternal mortality and improve care for pregnant and postpartum women and newborns affected by opioids.

For more information about the Healthy MOMS program, call 570-995-7821 or text healthymoms to 555888. Information about the program and its partners is also available at Go to for information about the Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence.

The Wright Center Celebrates First Graduate of NIMAA Medical Assistant Program

A collaborative program between The Wright Center for Community Health and the National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement (NIMAA) has graduated the first student from the initiative that seeks to address the national shortage of clinical medical assistants.

Melissa Lemus of Scranton, the first graduate of the program, has been hired as a certified medical assistant by The Wright Center for Community Health to work at the nonprofit’s Scranton Practice, 501 S. Washington Ave.

A medical assistant is responsible for assisting doctors and nurses in providing care to patients in hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care facilities. Duties include recording and updating medical histories and contact information in patient files, scheduling patient appointments and performing standard care procedures, such as taking blood samples, health coaching, measuring and recording vital signs, and more.

The NIMAA program educates and trains students over 29 weeks to become certified clinical medical assistants. The program, which requires a commitment of 32-36 hours per week, combines flexible online learning with a paid internship at one of The Wright Center for Community Health’s primary care practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne or Wayne counties. Participants may be eligible for federal assistance and other cost-defrayment options.

Students who are accepted into the program receive personalized training with experienced medical professionals at The Wright Center for Community Health during the clinical portion of their education. After completing the educational component, students are eligible to take the National Healthcareer Association Medical Assistant examination to receive their certified clinical medical assistant credential.

The employment outlook for medical assistants is projected to grow 18% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 104,400 openings are projected annually on average, over the decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For more information about the training program, contact Carla Blakeslee, The Wright Center’s clerkships coordinator, at Or visit