The Vermont Cynic

Health center director steps down after two decades

Lindsay Freed, Senior Staff Writer

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The director of the Center for Health & Wellbeing is stepping down after eight years in the role.

Though he has loved working with students, Jon Porter wanted to return to an environment where he would be doing more long-term clinical work, he said.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Porter said. “It’s not the happiest thing to leave CHWB, but it’s good. I think there’s some creativity in this new work for me.”

Porter, who has been involved with the University for 21 years, has accepted a position at the UVM Medical Center to work on alternatives to opioid treatment for chronic pain management, he said.

“This opportunity [to work at the medical center] came up and it just has a lot that I like in terms of working with a team and trying some creative new approaches,” Porter said.

The traditional approach to chronic pain treatment doesn’t work very well, Porter said.

The new methods he will be working with focus on the patient’s overall well-being, not just treating their symptoms, he said.

“I think a lot of the work that’s being done in this area now with pain is really focusing on how to help folks just be more functional and get more enjoyment out of life,” Porter said.

This new approach would include a focus on methods like acupuncture, massage therapy, psychotherapy and mindfulness, he said.

“This kind of comprehensive approach will try to give folks skills to help them move forward,” Porter said.

Helping people with mindfulness and mental health care has been one of Porter’s many focuses as director, he said.

“I think a challenge for all universities and institutions of higher education is making sure we’re addressing mental health in a proactive and effective way,” Porter said.

There has been an increase in demand for mental health counseling at Counseling and Psychiatric Services over the past five years and CHWB is going need to look into how to best use its resources, he said.

“I think we’re going to have to figure out how to be proactive about how to help students gain skills to handle whatever’s going on and work with it in a way that serves them well for the next eight decades,” Porter said.

Porter also sees his departure as a chance for CHWB to make UVM a university that prioritizes students’ health and well-being.

“For years here, we have worked on mindfulness and yoga and believed in the value that those other approaches have in maintaining health or optimizing health and function,” Porter said. “Looking forward, I think it’s great to have new leadership come in and invigorate the organization.”

The search for Porter’s replacement will begin in the spring, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Annie Stevens stated in a Nov. 30 email.

Until a new director is hired, the leadership of CHWB’s units — Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychiatry Services, LivingWell and the administration — will share responsibility for oversight of the center, Stevens stated in the email.

SGA President Chris Petrillo said he will be sad to see Porter leave his position as director, but is happy he is leaving for a personal passion that will benefit the state and the UVM community.

“It will be difficult to find a replacement who is as hardworking and caring as Dr. Porter,” Petrillo said.

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Health center director steps down after two decades