Q&A with Dr. Fred Kniffin, President of Porter Medical Center

Release Date: 
May 15, 2017

Dr. Fred KniffinQ&A with Dr. Fred Kniffin, President of Porter Medical Center

What should we know about Porter Medical Center?

Porter Medical Center is comprised of a 25 BED critical access hospital with all of the services you would expect in a small community hospital (ED, Surgical Services, Birthing Center and ancillary clinical departments), 105-bed skilled nursing facility and a network of provider practices serving the people of Addison County and Brandon, Vermont. Founded in 1925 through a donation of William Henry Porter, UVM Health Network—Porter Medical Center offers a variety of primary and specialty care services to our community, including a new ExpressCare and an Infusion Center at the hospital as well as a Memory Care/Dementia, short-term rehabilitation and long-term nursing home care at our Helen Porter Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. 

Tell us more about your service area.

Our primary service area is Addison County, Vermont (approximate population of 38,000). We do have one medical practice in the town of Brandon (Rutland County) and also serve many patients who come to our hospital or clinics from Essex County, New York.  As the home of Middlebury College, Porter provides services to both the staff and students of the College, and our hospital and nursing home are actually located on College-owned land (literally on the campus of Middlebury College).

Henry Porter

Who was William Henry Porter?

William Henry Porter was born in Middlebury, Vermont and came from a farm family which struggled financially. Through hard work and perseverance, he secured a job in the banking industry and climbed steadily through the ranks, until he became the president of the Chemical National Bank in 1908 and a member of J.P. Morgan and Company.

Despite his change in circumstances, William Porter did not forget the town where he had spent his childhood.  Middlebury, like most rural places in this period, had no local hospital, and Middlebury College worried that it could not provide adequate student health care without one. In 1914, Middlebury College President John Thomas was thinking that the college needed an infirmary to care for sick students.

Thomas floated his infirmary idea to William Porter, now a wealthy member of the College's Board of Trustees. Porter was sympathetic to the plan, but felt it did not go far enough. What about health care for the people of the town of Middlebury and Addison County? 

Mr. Porter agreed to donate the then-substantial sum of $50,000 to build a facility that would serve the dual role of community hospital and College infirmary. The hospital opened in 1925. Porter Medical Center is the quintessential “town and gown” project.

What has the process of joining the Network been like?

The process of affiliation has been like many things in life—the journey has been as meaningful as the destination! 

At Porter, we spent a year examining the topic of affiliation and it has been and open, thorough, thoughtful conversation among our board, medical staff, employees and community.  The process concluded in March with a unanimous vote of our members at the annual meeting to support the affiliation.

I have been saying for years that we have a “virtual affiliation” with the UVM Medical Center, as half of our patients also receive care at the UVM Medical Center, and much of our medical staff (myself included) received some part of our educational training at the University of Vermont. We are natural partners.  Our role as a community hospital and our geographic proximity to Burlington has created a natural and positive synergy between Porter and the UVM Medical Center for generations; so joining the UVM Health Network has been a very comfortable and positive process for our board, staff and community. We are excited about the opportunities to strengthen our bond with our academic medical center and to take advantage of the many resources and expertise that will benefit our local patients through this closer connection and shared commitment to serving the people of this region with exceptional healthcare.

What are you most excited about with the affiliation?

At every step along the way as we explored the affiliation with the UVM Health Network, our guiding principle was our Mission: “Improving the health of our community, one person at a time.” As we explored the many possibilities and final elements of the affiliation agreement, it became clearer and clearer that this affiliation was going to strengthen our organization and, therefore, improve our ability to fulfill our mission. We feel as if we have opened an exciting new chapter in the 90+ year history of our organization; and we are looking forward to leveraging the expertise and resources of the network in ways that will improve the health of our community for generations to come.