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Robert T. Porter, MD ’43: A Legacy of Caring

Photo of Robert T. (“Bob”) Porter, MD ’43.As Robert T. (“Bob”) Porter, MD ’43, completed his medical degree at UCSF, the world was at war. His newly acquired skills were immediately put to use at the U.S. Army Hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he treated soldiers with brain injuries and psychological trauma. He cared deeply for the well-being of the soldiers in his care, and thus began a lifelong dedication to his patients and his profession.

After the war Porter spent 60 years in New York City as a child and adolescent psychiatrist on the faculty at Mount Sinai Hospital. Friends and colleagues say he was devoted to his young patients, with his dog often at his side to put kids at ease during sessions. He was also an enthusiastic mentor, always interested in helping medical students and residents become exceptional physicians.

“My uncle was truly a humanitarian,” says Porter’s nephew Mark Hussman. “His patients and students were the most important thing in his life.”

He had met Red Cross worker Mary Kay Thornton at the Army Hospital. They reunited and married many years later, sharing their passion for service to others and enjoying nature at their country home in Connecticut. Mary Kay passed away in 2006.

Porter died in 2014 at the age of 95. He always remembered that a $200 annual scholarship had made it possible for him to attend UCSF, and he wanted to give back.

In December 2015 UC Berkeley (where Porter received his undergraduate degree) and UCSF both received bequests from his estate. At UCSF his bequest will be used to establish The Robert T. Porter Distinguished Professorship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, helping ensure that his legacy of thoughtful medical student training and patient care will live on in perpetuity.

Because he had long ago arranged for this bequest to UCSF, Porter was a founding member of Heritage Circle—the group that honors individuals who have included UCSF in their estate plans.

“UCSF attracts the best and brightest students, and many of them rely on our generous donors to help support their training in child and adolescent psychiatry,” says Matthew State, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. “This gift is a terrific way for us to carry on Dr. Porter’s dedication to students, residents, and young psychiatric patients. We’re extremely grateful for his visionary bequest.”


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