Dabbs leaves role at free clinic
MIDDLEBURY — Ken Dabbs on Dec. 23 will step down after a very brief, but tremendously productive tenure as executive director of Community Health Services of Addison County’s Open Door Clinic.
Dabbs took the helm of the fledgling free clinic in July of 2007, when its staff consisted of a part-time director, case manager and a handful of volunteer physicians, nurses and other health care professionals operating out of a small space at 812 Exchange St. in Middlebury.
He will leave the clinic next month with a staff of four, coordinating services in Middlebury and a newly reopened clinic at 10 North St. in Vergennes. The Open Door Clinic during Dabbs’ tenure has seen patient visits skyrocket by 51 percent, to a total of 771 clients served last year. The sluggish economy is further increasing demand to the extent that the clinics are on pace to receive an estimated 1,000 visits in 2009, according to Dabbs.
The clinic has also, under Dabbs’ leadership, reached out with health services for under-served populations. The organization began offering women’s health clinics (staffed by female physicians) around a year ago. Providers have also reached out to migrant farm workers, whose immigration status and language barriers had precluded them from entering the health care system in the past.
Dabbs is pleased with the accomplishments, but has accepted a position as a family nurse practitioner with the Brandon Medical Center. The new job will require Dabbs, a Middlebury resident, to step down from his position with the Open Door Clinic, though he vowed to continue to help out as a volunteer.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he said of his career transition. “This has been a wonderful experience for me. I had a chance to feel really connected to the Middlebury community.”
Meanwhile, the search is on for a new executive director. Whoever is selected will have some big shoes to fill, according to Community Health Services of Addison County board member James Dumont.
“It is hard to think of any way to describe Ken’s tenure as our director without sounding childishly exuberant,” Dumont said. “Ken combines being a great listener, being a great team leader, and being his wonderful self — compassionate, smart, humorous, self-deprecating and committed to serving others. He, along with our medical director, Scott Smith, has led the transformation of our clinic into being a model for the rest of the state to follow in many areas: providing specialized women’s health care to the uninsured and underinsured, getting healthcare to our farmers and farm workers, and expanding the number of patients we serve.”
The Open Door Clinic can be reached at 388-0137.