Barbara Covey jokes about her 18 years living through Maine winters.

“I was born in Minnesota, so I had to move to a more temperate climate,” she said.

Covey’s wry sense of humor serves as a strong counterpoint to her serious work as an emergency department physician at MaineGeneral Medical Center Thayer Unit and as the driving force behind two local programs: the Community Dental Clinic in Waterville and the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner program, or SAFE.

For those reasons and more, Covey, 62, has been chosen for the 2011 Outstanding Professional Award from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce. The award will be presented March 28 at the Waterville Elks Banquet & Conference Center during the 49th Annual Awards Ceremony.

Covey earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. She attended medical school at Standford University in Stanford, Calif., then served her residency at Cambridge City Hospital in Cambridge, Mass.

For the next 15 years, Covey served patients in Massahusetts as an emergency room doctor and then as a primary care physician.In 1994, Covey, her husband, Mark Jose, and children Dylan and Amy Jose moved to Waterville from Arlington, Mass.

By 1999 she’d realized there were two problems in central Maine.

One was that many people in the area couldn’t afford dental care. The other was that providing care for critical injuries in the emergency room sometimes prevented doctors from giving victims of sexual assault the immediate attention they deserved.

“These two gaps just kind of identified themselves, so I took on these projects that I thought would take me a couple of years,” she said.

More than a decade later, she’s still involved.

The dental center provides care to nearly 5,000 patients, Covey said.

SAFE has helped expand registered nurses’ scope of practice to provide immediate care to victims of sexual assault and to collect criminal evidence whenever physicians are busy tending to critically ill patients.

The SAFE program continues to expand, Covey said.

“Now, we not only service this hospital, but we’ve developed regionalized services for … all the hospitals in Kennebec and Somerset counties,” she said.

Kim Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said Covey’s altruism earned her the highest number of nominations for the 2011 awards, totaling four nominations from separate organizations.

“She’s advocating for the underserved in our region, and donates lots of hours,” Lindlof said.

Scott Kemmerer, medical director for MaineGeneral’s Emergency Services, said Covey is a marvel.

“I would be impressed if two different physicians led these programs, but for just one physician performing these tasks is truly remarkable,” Kemmerer wrote in his nomination letter for Covey. “Her work has benefited more people in central Maine than we could possibly count, and she does this tirelessly, avoiding recognition, performing this for the greater good.”

Scott Bullock, president and CEO of MaineGeneral Medical Center, described Covey as “kind, caring and highly competent.”

“She is an outstanding physician and human being,” he said.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]


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