Medical Direction at LifeFlight of Maine

LifeFlight of Maine is more than just helicopters. Each LifeFlight aircraft or ground vehicle carries a clinical team and medical equipment that delivers ICU-level care to wherever the patient is. That clinical team typically consists of a flight nurse and a flight paramedic, both of whom bring years of critical care experience and are at the top of their respective fields. They are the team in green flight suits at a patient’s side.

Behind the scenes is LifeFlight’s team of medical directors. Though you won’t often find them in a helicopter, they are involved in the care of every single LifeFlight patient. The quality and rigor of LifeFlight’s medical direction, combined with the skill of the clinical crew, is what keeps LifeFlight of Maine among the top air medical programs nationwide.

The medical directors provide clinical oversight in two ways, which they refer to as “online” and “offline.” “Online” medical direction is what happens while a patient is in LifeFlight’s care. For example, a clinician at the sending hospital who has a question about how to manage a specific patient will call one of LifeFlight’s medical directors, who are available day and night. “Medical oversight runs through the entire design of the system,” says Norm Dinerman, MD, LifeFlight’s founding medical director. “This is a patient-centric medical enterprise.”

Three LifeFlight crew members walk toward a helicopter.
LifeFlight’s Bangor-based crew prepares to transport a patient.

“Offline” medical direction encompasses all that occurs before and after a transport. Each case is reviewed by the medical directors to ensure LifeFlight is providing the highest quality, most advanced medicine available to each person entrusted to its care. LifeFlight’s clinical crew and medical directors meet regularly to review cases retrospectively to determine if there are any learning opportunities and to celebrate when things go particularly well. The medical directors are constantly learning and collaborating with physician colleagues on the state and national level, sharing their expertise and gaining insights from their peers. They provide ongoing training to LifeFlight clinical crew and other emergency medical providers across Maine. They regularly meet to review and update protocols to reflect the latest medical science.

“As medical directors,” said Dr. Dinerman, “We have an intense and unrelenting investment in assuring that the most contemporary practice of medicine is provided to our patients by LifeFlight of Maine.”

“It is not cosmetic,” Dr. Dinerman said. “Our medical direction is daily, it is real, and it is unremitting.”

First published as the April feature story in the LifeFlight of Maine 2024 Calendar.