Uniting Health and Water Professionals

On October 12, 2009, I completed a journey that began a little over 8 years ago, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. As NYC dwellers at the time, our family was directly impacted by the events, the immediate response, and the short, and continuing long term recovery. I was directly involved in support of firemen and policemen, participated in memorial services and remembrances, conducted extensive Fear Level Surveys at 12 and 30 months post-event, spoke at Symposiums on disaster preparedness and more. (1,2)

But the most lasting involvement was the writing of a book and the creation of a traveling exhibit called “All Available Boats”, which told the stories of 10 boat captains and 10 passengers, brought together on 9/11 as part of an epic maritime evacuation (300,000 citizens in 24 hours) initiated by a call from the Coast Guard for “all available boats”. (3)  Beyond telling this important story, the lasting effect for me was that it lead to a direct involvement first with the Coast Guard where I was exposed to their unique Mission, Values and Leadership Ethic; and 2nd to the UN, which was in the process of launching their 2nd “Water For Decade/Water For Life” program. (4,5)

At the UN, I was approached after an address by Water Expert, Dr. Kristen Leitner, who asked the pointed question, “What do you, or any doctors, really know about water?” My response: “Not much.” And so the challenge was layed down. First, to educate myself. Second, to spread the word. And third, to unite health professionals and water professionals.

Phase I occupied most of 2005 and led to the publication of Healthy Waters: What Every Health Professional Should Know About Water in 2006 and the creation of the Healthy Waters website in 2007. (6) Phase II is still underway but received a giant boost last month at the Water Environment Federation’s Annual Meeting in Orlando where I delivered the Opening Address. (7) Parallel efforts to educate physician organizations began this year as well with a special address in April at the Massachusetts Medicial Society.(8) Phase III is just beginning, but already from the Water Professional side have come these recommended action steps which can easily be realized on a local and regional level:

1. An Introduction: This year, as part of your Grand Rounds program at your hospital invite a water professional to address the health professional audience on a water topic of his or her choice.

2. A Visit: Arrange an onsite visit to your local water purification plant by a delegation of health leaders from your local hospital including health managers and nurse and physician leaders.

3. A Program: Create an information sheet, in partnership with local water professionals, defining best practices for residential water and sanitation safety, including contact numbers for water testing, and make that information available in print and online at your local hospital and in doctors offices.

Health in a modern world is all about reaching full human potential. But this is impossible without a reliable source of clean pure water. Water professionals have carried the full weight of this burden alone for much too long. It is time for all health professionals to lend a helping hand.


1. Fear Levels in NYC 30 Months After 9/11. Magee M.http://docs.google.com/View?id=dc3ppvhb_814cxp7rtfh

2. Yale Conference On Disaster Preparedness.http://docs.google.com/View?id=dc3ppvhb_813gsnnmxht

3. Magee M. All Available Boats. 2002. Spencer Books, NY, NY. www.spencerbooks.com.

4. Magee M. Coast Guard Address. 2005.http://docs.google.com/View?id=dc3ppvhb_802djmtkddm

5. UN Water For Decade/ Water For Life. 2005 -2015. http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/

6. Magee M. Healthy Water: What Every Health Professional Should Know About Water. 2006. Spencer Books, NY, NY. www.spencerbooks.com.

7. Massachusetts Medical Society. Drops of Life. Mike Magee MD. http://www.massmed.org/AM/Template.cfmSection=Continuing_Education

6. Water Environment Federation WEFTEC 2009: Opening Address. Mike Magee MD. http://www.wef.org/conferences/page_fv.aspx