GARDINER — A Gardiner native who is a practicing physician at one of Boston’s biggest hospitals is spearheading an initiative that will help Maine get better health care.

James J. Dineen, is overseeing a collaboration between Maine and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston that expands the range of health care education programs, materials and opportunities available to providers, patients and families in Maine.

Last week he returned to his home town to be photographed on Water Street for the program’s website, which he hopes to have up and running by the first of the year.

“It’s already started,” Dineen, 73, said later in a telephone interview. “Nurses from Bridgton Hospital tuned into a critical care nursing certification prep course and it was sponsored by the Knight Nursing Center. It’s already under way and growing. I’m very impressed with what’s going on with Maine medicine. It’s very encouraging. There’s a lot of great institutions up there and we’re just trying to fill any gaps that might exist.”

He said the program, the Lunder-Dineen Health Education Alliance of Maine in Collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, is funded by the Lunder Foundation and the hospital. The program will offer a wide spectrum of on-site, online, meeting, teleconferencing and multi-media educational opportunities to physicians, nurses and other health care professionals in Maine as well as to patients and families.

Dineen said the 10-year initiative will build on established educational programs at Massachusetts General.

“I came up with the idea of trying to transport these platforms to the state of Maine on an as-need basis,” Dineen said. He said the idea was warmly received by Lunder and the hospital. “The emphasis is education and we’re relying on the Internet to export these great programs.”

Dineen said he has met with Maine health care providers and patients to identify local, regional and statewide health issues that may benefit from increased educational programming. An initial focus will be on areas of the state that have specific health concerns or unmet needs.

With all the budget cuts at local hospitals and Medicare and Medicaid, education programs are the first to go, he said.

“The key word is education,” he said. “We’re going to use all vehicles of education. Some people will be coming to Maine to teach conferences, and there will be written material and tele-education. It’s a pretty wide open challenge to use modern educational techniques to spread the word.”

Scott Bullock, chief executive officer and president of the MaineGeneral Health in central Maine, said Maine will benefit from the program.

“Dr. Dineen, having grown up and being sort of the senior statesman in all this, quickly identified the way this works best for content delivery in Maine or Boston, so it’s available as widely as possible,” Bullock said. “I’m very excited that the delivery of educational content has advanced so greatly with the advancement of technology. We’ve already been able to tap into interactive television.”

More than half a dozen Maine hospitals have collaborated with Massachusetts General through the hospital’s TeleStroke Service, in which the hospital’s stroke specialists consult with Maine physicians to remotely examine, diagnose and recommend treatment for patients with stroke symptoms.

“The latest thing is ‘bath salts,’ the recreational drug that health care providers have been exposed to,” he said. “We could bring everybody up to speed with that. That might be something we will tackle.”

Dineen said he hopes to measure the impact of the educational programs on the performances of physicians and Allied Health personnel to see if they incorporate what they learn in their behavior.

Dineen graduated in 1956 from Gardiner High School, where he was starting quarterback on two state championship teams.

The former team internist for the New England Patriots and the Boston Bruins he has three Super Bowl rings.

“I came down to Boston and attended Harvard and went to Yale Medical School,” he said. He did an intern residency and fellowship at Mass General. “I stayed right here and practiced primary care, but did a lot of emergency and sports medicine,” he said.

Dineen comes from a large family — he has six siblings, four of whom are still living. They all went on to college and earned advanced degrees.

“We have a doctor, a lawyer, a veterinarian and three educators in my family,” he said. “My mother was named mother of the year when I was in college. She was an amazing lady.”

Dineen said he and his wife, Dolly (Evers) Dineen, of Augusta, come to Maine often and stay at the family compound on Kezar Lake in Lovell.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

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