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First Class of Rural Family Medicine Residents Graduates from St. Luke’s in Schuylkill County
July 14, 2021

(TAMAQUA, PA)_ The first class of residents graduated from St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Rural Training Track (RTT) Family Medicine program in June. Two residents, Sonya Elnaggar, MD, and Christine Lee, MD, received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony held June 17 at Schuylkill County’s Galen Glen Winery.

“Nationally, there is a shortage of family practitioners,” said Greg Dobash, MD Assistant Director and Faculty Member. “The shortage is even worse in rural areas. This program, the first of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania, is a way to help address this critical shortage.”

St. Luke’s started its Rural Family Medicine Residency based at the St. Luke’s Miners Campus in 2018, with the two residents. Currently, eight residents are enrolled in the three year program. “By July 2022, we will have 12,” Dobash added.

“The program targets residents with a desire to practice in rural settings such as beautiful Schuylkill and Carbon counties,” said Wendy Lazo, President of St. Luke’s Miners Campus President.

During their training, the residents are very involved in community outreach programs for underserved populations in the two-county region. While residents, Dr. Elnaggar and Dr. Lee provided health screenings for area veterans, sports physicals for local schoolchildren, and participated in overdose awareness events and health fairs in the region. “Our residents have served breakfast to local veterans on Veterans Day and provided medical care at local high school football games on Friday nights in the fall,” continued Lazo. “We really try to connect them not only to the health clinics, but also to the community and have them experience what it’s like to live in this area.”

Dobash said the graduation was appropriately held at the beautiful Galen Glen winery because it shows off the region’s amenities and quality of life.

“The program was an exceptionally positive experience,” Dr. Elnaggar said. “I loved everything about it, the faculty, the staff, the program directors, and I hope someday to be able to give back to the program that gave me so much especially during the pandemic and the difficult time it was.”

Lazo said, “We encourage other rural hospitals to consider starting a Rural Family Medicine Program because our rural communities have so much to offer and we know that physicians are more likely to practice where they train.”

Dr. Elnaggar hopes to join St. Luke’s University Health Network as a family physician. Dr. Lee will be returning to her home state of Florida to join a family practice there.

Sonya Elnaggar
Sonya Elnaggar, MD


Media Contact:

Sam Kennedy, Corporate Communications Director, 484-526-4134,


About St. Luke’s

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 17,000 employees providing services at 12 hospitals sites and 300+ outpatient sites. With annual net revenue in excess of $2.7 billion, the Network’s service area includes 10 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe and Schuylkill counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania. In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s established the Lehigh Valley’s first and only regional medical school campus. It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 38 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 347 residents and fellows. St. Luke’s is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system to earn Medicare’s five-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. St. Luke’s is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital. U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Luke’s #1 in the Lehigh Valley and #6 in the state. Three of IBM Watson Health’s 100 Top Hospitals are St. Luke’s hospitals. St. Luke’s flagship University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from IBM Watson Health nine times total and seven years in a row, including in 2021 when it was identified as THE #1 TEACHING HOSPITAL IN THE COUNTRY. In 2021, IBM Watson Health also named St. Luke’s among the 15 Top Health Systems nationally. Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information. St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.