CAPE ELIZABETH — The new director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says she always wanted to be a doctor who helps people.
Dr. Sheila Pinette, a 52-year-old osteopath, said her father died of a heart attack when she was a young child. Her mother, a widow at 39, worked as a waitress in Hinsdale, N.H., to raise six children.
“Coming from a small mill town in New Hampshire, we had very little means, but I knew I wanted to be a physician and help educate people on heart health,” she said.
Pinette attended the University of New Hampshire on the GI Bill and received a bachelor’s degree in zoology. She earned a bachelor’s of science in medicine from George Washington University and then moved to Hartford, Conn., to worked as a physician assistant in neonatal care at St. Francis Hospital.
It was there she met her husband, Dr. Michael Pinette. Together they moved to Cape Elizabeth, where Michael grew up, and developed the Maternal Fetal Medicine Division at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Pinette returned to medical school and attended the University of New England, where she received her doctorate in osteopathic medicine and graduated with honors in 2000. She completed her internal medicine residency at Maine Medical Center and then opened her own practice, Internal Medicine on the Cape, in 2003.
Pinette said she is proud to have built her own practice, so leaving to start a new career brings mixed emotions.
“I give a lot of time and personal care to my patients and they mean a lot to me,” she said. “It is an honor to care for them, it has been a great journey.”
Pinette said within the first few months she wants to meet the employees in the eight divisions of the CDC. She also wants to travel to the agency’s different outreach sites and talk to health-care providers about their needs and how to better serve them.
She said while her learning curve will be “very large” in the beginning, she is willing to give it her all.
“Our goals are to continue to work on chronic pain, obesity, diabetes and prevention, which is a huge part of good health,” she said. “I am honored to serve so many people in the state and hope to do the best I can. I am a worker and a doer and I know I can serve the people.”
Pinette will replace Dr. Dora Anne Mills, who served for 15 years as the state’s chief health officer before leaving in January. She will start on May 1.
“I want to be a role model, not only to my own children but to others. I know from experience that hard work pays off and dreams can come true,” Pinette said. “I am looking forward to this new job and all the challenges I may face.”
Cape Elizabeth resident Dr. Sheila Pinette has been named director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She will begin her new job as the state’s top public health officer May 1.