The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, Scranton, focused on training primary care physicians long before doing so became a pressing national health care priority.

Now, as the demand for primary care rises amid a shortage of primary care doctors, the Wright Center has earned an even greater role in closing the gap.

The center, which has evolved from earlier programs, holds a key spot in the development of medical professionals - residencies. It provides medical school graduates with primary care residencies in family medicine, internal medicine and geriatric medicine - to the great benefit of Northeast Pennsylvania, especially under-served areas.

New medical schools, including the Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, have been established to help produce more physicians to fill the shortage, and many established medical school have increased their class sizes. But the problem that has emerged is an insufficient number of residencies to accommodate all of the prospective doctors.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $83.4 million in grants nationwide to fund primary care residencies. The Wright Center received $13.8 million, or about 16.5 percent of the national total.

The grants will provide residencies for about 550 medical school graduates nationwide in the next academic year, about 200 more than in the current academic year.

The Wright Center's record has earned a primary place in expanding primary care, putting the region in the forefront of a crucial component of the national health care economy.