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Wright Center physician and wife ‘blessed with large family’

Posted 6/13/24

SCRANTON, PA — Unable to conceive a child or undergo fertility treatments, Dr. William Dempsey and his wife Laureen received a different miracle after turning to adoption shortly after getting …

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Father's Day

Dr. Dad

Wright Center physician and wife ‘blessed with large family’


SCRANTON, PA — Unable to conceive a child or undergo fertility treatments, Dr. William Dempsey and his wife Laureen received a different miracle after turning to adoption shortly after getting married in 1982 to fulfill their dream of a large family.

At the time, Dr. Dempsey, deputy chief medical officer at The Wright Center for Community Health and medical director of its health center in Clarks Summit, was a resident physician at Florida’s Tallahassee Memorial Regional Hospital Center, where his wife also worked.

 One phone call from his wife sealed their fate.

“She was pregnant,” says Dr. Dempsey, 68, of South Abington Twp. “Then we had another and another, and they just kept coming.”

The firstborn was William III, in 1985. Mickey soon followed in 1987. Then came twins Courtney and Kelsey in 1989, Hayley in 1992 (on Dr. Dempsey’s birthday), and John in 1994. Anne, their “bonus baby,” rounded out the couple’s family in 2002.

“I get asked, ‘Why so many kids?’” says Dr. Dempsey. “It used to be the norm where families were very large, not like today where there’s one or two kids or none. So, I turn it around and tell them, ‘I just continued, you guys changed.’”

Today, the Dempsey family also includes three sons-in-law, two daughters-in-law, and a dozen grandchildren—nine girls and three boys—with Nos. 13, 14 and 15, due within the next several months.

“We are truly blessed,” Dr. Dempsey said.

Through his wife’s involvement with the Scranton-based World Links International Adoption Agency for more than 20 years, they also have been interim parents to orphans from other countries who stay at their home while she helps find them homes for good in the U.S.

“Our kids got to learn about different cultures and languages,” says Laureen Dempsey, who describes her husband as a “fun dad.” “It’s crazy, fun and ridiculously rewarding.”

After the birth of their first child, the Dempseys moved to Northeast Pennsylvania. Dr. Dempsey was born and raised in Dunmore and graduated from the University of Scranton. With the region’s low crime rate, traditional values and good schools, and with family nearby, it was ideal to raise a growing family—and for Dr. Dempsey to build his family medicine practice.

“We decided that I would make the money and my wife would stay at home to take care of the children,” says Dr. Dempsey, who received his medical degree from St. George's University School of Medicine in 1981. “In today’s society, it’s almost impossible for one person to stay home, so both parents are working. But you divide and conquer. You figure out what needs to be done, and you get it done.”

For Dr. Dempsey, that meant many side jobs, including in the former Carbondale General Hospital’s emergency room and as the physician for athletic teams at Lackawanna College and Marywood University.

“As a family doctor, I wanted to care for moms, dads, kids and grandparents, so I also did house calls,” says Dr. Dempsey, who is also a faculty member and associate program director of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s Family Medicine Residency. “I tell medical students, ‘If you want to be rich, don’t be a family doctor. If you want to go to heaven, be a family doctor.’”

As the Dempsey family grew, so did expenses, including their children’s Catholic education at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green and then Scranton Preparatory School.

“People say you can’t take your money with you,” Dr. Dempsey says. “I say, ‘Yes, you can.’ You invest it in your kids and hopefully, they’re reuniting with you in heaven.”

He eventually became the medical director of WorkMed Center for Occupational Health until 1994, when he joined Community Medical Center as its emergency department staff physician, both in Scranton. In 2010, he joined PrimeMed Medical Group in Wilkes-Barre and The Wright Center for Community Health in 2014. In 2020, The Wright Center appointed him deputy chief medical officer.

Being the sole wage earner sometimes meant missing trick-or-treating with the children, their games or other activities. But more important, says Dr Dempsey, was ensuring they grew up knowing they are loved and can always count on their parents.

“No matter what is going on in life, be your kids’ safe haven,” he advises. “They need to know mom and dad are there for them always. … It’s so important to find a partner with the same values. My wife is an incredible partner and mother.”

And when there were challenging times, such as getting all the children up, dressed and out the door or allowing them to learn their own way—even if it’s the hard way—you lean on each other, do the best you can, and don’t dwell on the past, he says.

“When you feel like you’re going to cry, you have to laugh,” says Dr. Dempsey. “In the end, the good times outweigh the bad.”

Contributed by The Wright Center.

About The Wright Center

The Wright Center, headquartered in Scranton, operates 10 community health centers in Northeast Pennsylvania, including a mobile medical and dental unit called Driving Better Health. Its locations offer affordable, high-quality, non-discriminatory, whole-person primary health services to people of all ages regardless of their insurance status, ZIP code or ability to pay. Patients typically have the convenience of going to a single location to access integrated medical, dental, and behavioral health care, as well as community-based addiction treatment and recovery services. For more information, go to TheWrightCenter.org, follow the center on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. or call 570/230-0019. 

More detail:

The Wright Center’s mission is to improve the health and welfare of the communities we serve through inclusive and responsive health services and the sustainable renewal of an inspired, competent workforce that is privileged to serve. This mission is delivered through a Graduate Medical Education Safety-Net Consortium model that engages two complementary entities: The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education (TWCGME) and The Wright Center for Community Health (TWCCH), a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike, as well as four partnering national Federally Qualified Health Centers. The shared passionate purpose of these organizations is to demonstrate an “Achievable by All” Graduate Medical Education Safety-Net Consortium model that co-creates transformational health care teams of leaders who empower people, families, and communities to own and optimize their health, as well as their health care delivery and workforce development systems. Our niche is delivering world-class, innovative, and responsive primary health services in the context of community-centric, incumbent and future workforce development and renewal.

 TWCCH is a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike with a growing network of community health centers throughout Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wayne counties that provide safety-net, nondiscriminatory, comprehensive primary and preventive health services, including medical, dental, mental and behavioral health, addiction and recovery, and Ryan White HIV services to vulnerable and medically underserved populations, regardless of a patient’s insurance status or ability to pay.

 TWCGME is our nation’s largest HRSA-funded Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Safety Net Consortium that is dedicated to training compassionate, highly skilled physicians in community-immersed health centers and clinical learning networks collectively striving to address our nation’s primary care physician shortage, misdistribution, and related health, health care, and health careers access disparities.

 The Wright Center for Patient and Community Engagement (TWCPCE) is a nonprofit that complements TWCCH and TWCGME’s mission through patient and community engagement in the delivery, enhancement, and transformation of primary health care services; interprofessional workforce development; and public health improvements through education, advocacy, and responsive address of the socioeconomic determinants of health that disproportionately affect underserved and rural communities. TWCPCE accomplishes its mission by providing project-based programming to organize volunteer engagement for community-based educational and outreach initiatives that include health fairs, blood drives, distribution of healthy nonperishable food, fresh produce, winter coats and clothing, and programs that address transportation, social isolation and more.


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