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July 13, 2023

LifeFlight of Maine’s founder steps back; new director comes from within

2 people in headshots Judge courtesy / Tara Rice; Kellner courtesy / LifeFlight of Maine Tom Judge, left, will step back from his role as executive director. Joe Kellner will become CEO.

As LifeFlight of Maine observes 25 years of service, its founder and executive director, Tom Judge, has decided to step back and a new CEO was appointed from within the organization.

Under Judge’s leadership, the air medical and aviation service — established in 1998 — has received numerous awards for safety, innovation and clinical excellence, in addition to saving lives. 

Judge was also instrumental in establishing the LifeFlight Foundation and, most recently, LifeFlight’s new aviation operation, LifeFlight Aviation Services.

LifeFlight of Maine is a joint partnership between Northern Light Health and Central Maine Healthcare and is the state’s only air ambulance service. During its 25 years, LifeFlight has cared for more than 36,000 patients. It deploys medical teams from bases in Sanford, Lewiston and Bangor, using three helicopters, an airplane, rapid response vehicles and specialized ground ambulances. 

Judge will continue to serve LifeFlight in a supporting role as project officer, assisting with legislative advocacy, working with the Federal Aviation Administration on national safety initiatives, and supporting LifeFlight’s research group.

Most recently, LifeFlight is looking to acquire three specialized ground ambulances and launch a critical care ground transport program. 

“LifeFlight represents an extraordinary effort by hundreds of people over the years building something truly of Maine, for Maine, and by Maine,” said Judge.

“We are grateful to Tom for his vision and dedication in building a world class nonprofit air medical and aviation service,” said Timothy Dentry, president and CEO of Northern Light Health. “With Tom’s leadership, LifeFlight of Maine has become an invaluable resource to all of our communities, ensuring timely access to Maine’s emergency and trauma centers, regardless of where people live or find themselves in need.”

Kellner steps in

Joe Kellner will take on the role of CEO, effective Oct. 1.

Kellner currently serves as the vice president of finance, operations and strategy for Northern Light Home Care and Hospice and Northern Light Medical Transport, and as chief financial officer of LifeFlight of Maine. 

He also serves as the chief operating officer for MedComm. 

Kellner’s responsibilities will encompass all LifeFlight of Maine and LifeFlight Aviation Services operations. He will be supported by Bill Cyr, LifeFlight’s chief operating officer, and Josh Dickson, the director of aviation services. 

Kellner will work with the LifeFlight Foundation, led by Kate O’Halloran, who was appointed as the executive director in 2020.

“Over the years, Joe has tirelessly worked to advocate for EMS locally and nationally, and has remained very close to LifeFlight, most recently serving as its chief financial officer,” said Dentry. “He is well positioned to lead LifeFlight of Maine into the future.”

In the past year, LifeFlight has made nearly 400 flights to and from hospitals in Bridgton, Lewiston and Rumford, transporting patients more than 25,000 miles. 

“In a state with very challenging terrain, LifeFlight is a real difference-maker in getting patients the care they need as quickly as possible,” said Steve Li]leson, president and CEO of Central Maine Healthcare.

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