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Kniffin stepping down as Porter Hospital president

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Posted on August 20, 2018 |
By John Flowers



Fred Kniffin, MD photo.jpg

MIDDLEBURY — UVM Health Network Porter Medical Center Board Chair Maureen McLaughlin has announced that Porter’s President, Dr. Fred Kniffin, will step down from his leadership role next spring. The search for a new leader for Porter will begin shortly.

“We will always be deeply grateful to Fred for answering our call two years ago and serving in this role, first on an interim basis and then on a more permanent basis, at a time when Porter needed him most,” McLaughlin said. “Fred has led our organization through transformational change in many ways, significantly improved internal and external communication and engagement, remained focused on our community mission and has set us on a firm path forward as a member of the UVM Health Network,” she said.

Dr. Kniffin was appointed as the interim President of Porter in the spring of 2016 during a time of significant organizational disruption, following the hiring of CEO Lynn Boggs who stayed on the job less than a year before receiving a vote of no-confidence by the board and resigning shortly thereafter.

Dr. Kniffin immediately focused on efforts to bring the community together and reestablish confidence in the organization. He launched a tireless campaign of communication with both internal and external audiences, including the introduction of his “weekly message” to staff, which he has produced every Friday morning for his entire tenure as Porter’s leader.

“The weekly messages did more than provide updates and information, they demonstrated appreciation, respect and a leadership style that was open, transparent and respectful,” McLaughlin said. “Fred was just what we needed and his commitment to the mission of the organization and to this community came through every week in his message to the staff and providers; and he always ended them with an acknowledgement to those who provide the hands-on care to our patients and residents who he often called the ‘real heroes’ of Porter.”

True to form, Dr. Kniffin announced his intention to step away next spring in one of his weekly messages. It began with the words: “How do you leave a job that you love? Why would you leave a job that you love? These are the sorts of questions I’ve been mulling over for the last several months.”

He then went on to explain.

“It’s time for me to move on, turn the page, start a new chapter. I’m doing this with mixed emotions,” he wrote. “Serving as president of Porter Medical Center is the greatest honor of my career. It has been an amazing opportunity. I have learned more than I thought was possible about health care and about myself. I’ve had the privilege to work with remarkable people. All this in the service of caring for our community.”

Dr. Kniffin reminded his colleagues that he accepted this role initially as a short-term appointment simply to help Porter make a necessary leadership transition and that he always intended to return to emergency medicine and also spend more time on his outside passions of biking and hiking.

“My reasons for making this change are both personal and professional. On the professional side, as much as I have been honored to serve as president, I also like my old job of being a doctor. I can get everything I need to get out of work by caring for patients – mental stimulation, purpose, the opportunity to lead and communicate — all this comes with being a doctor,” he wrote.

Dr. John Brumsted, President and CEO of the UVM Health Network, shared his thoughts on Kniffen’s announcement as well. “I know I speak for all of us at the UVM Health Network when I say it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Fred. His open and thoughtful leadership, his strong belief in the value of our Network and his consistent advocacy for Porter have played a significant role in our work to improve access to health care and specialty services for the communities we serve. I look forward to working closely with the Porter Board, leadership and community to identify the individual who can continue Fred’s excellent work,” he said.

According to McLaughlin, the firm of Witt Kiefer will be engaged to assist with a nation-wide search for a new leader, which is expected to invite both internal and external candidates. That process will begin in earnest this fall.

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