Avid fly fisherman doctor dedicated his free time to helping struggling disabled American veterans heal through the sport, Allied Anesthesia seeks to carry on this legacy
In an effort to promote awareness of the needs of disabled American veterans and create a meaningful memorial to the late Dr. Jeff Katz, Allied Anesthesia recently presented a generous gift to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF). Dr. Katz and his wife Carole Katz were deeply involved in the extraordinary project, which aims to empower and heal disabled veterans both mentally and physically through the art of fly fishing.
Allied Anesthesia President Dr. Kaveh Matin said, “Dr. Jeff Katz was a highly respected member of the Allied Anesthesia Medical Group for many years. He provided leadership and assisted the physician affiliates of AAMGI with incorporation as a true medical group in 1993 after many years of collegial but informal clinical collaboration. The physicians of Allied Anesthesia deeply mourn Jeff’s passing and wanted to provide a meaningful memorial to him.”
Carole Katz was the 2008 Women’s National Dry Fly Casting Champion and president of the Long Beach Casting Club in 2006 and 2007. She said people often ask her why she got involved in the project. “I was just ending my term as president of Long Beach Casting Club and happened to read a couple of paragraphs about the original Healing Waters program. I was instantly moved to start a project here. First, our club is right down the street from the VA Long Beach, and, second, we’ve always had a strong teaching focus,” Katz said.
“But the foundational inspiration was my father-in-law Charlie, Jeff’s father. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war in Cabanatuan and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress the rest of his life. After we’d been involved in the project for a little while, I remember my husband saying how he so badly wished there was something like Healing Waters for Charlie when he returned from the war. I suppose that, in big part, I’m doing this for Charlie.”
Matin said that when he approached Katz about Allied’s desire to honor her husband this way, she offered up several options, one of which was Project Healing Waters. “The project is dedicated to supporting the recovery of disabled veterans through the simple Zen and joy of fly fishing,” Matin said. “Jeff and Carole dedicated considerable time, energy and compassion to a group of men and women in our society who, in the defense of their country, sacrificed their wholeness—physically, mentally and spiritually. Regrettably, these men and women can become largely invisible to most of us as we go about the relative good fortune of our lives. This project seeks to change that.”
“We support the work that Jeff and Carole have been doing and hope, in memory of Dr. Katz, that this memorial gift might cause others to realize the importance of this activity and decide to support it as well.”
PHWFF Aims to Heal Heart & Mind
The project shows that fly fishing has unique and unexpected power to heal. “A fisherman has to really focus on the task at hand when he’s building a rod, tying a fly, or casting, because one slip up can mean a big, tangled mess or, even worse, a lost catch. When the fisherman is concentrating on his work, it helps keep more stressful thoughts at bay, which is really what vets suffering from PTSD need—a mental break that opens up the window to healing,” Katz said. “And our veterans with physical disabilities gain improved eye-hand coordination, balance, fine motor skills and exercise tolerance—all skills that transfer into everyday life. The best part of the program, though, is the camaraderie that grows among the participants and volunteers. That’s possibly the greatest source of healing.”
PHWFF began in 2005 as an outreach to disabled American veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Today it has a global reach, serving veterans in Warrior Transition Units, Department of Defense hospitals and Veterans Affairs clinics and medical centers nationwide.
Participating veterans range from beginners to seasoned fly fishers, and all the necessary equipment, supplies and costs for the one- and multi-day fishing trips are provided free of charge.
To stay vital, the project depends on the cooperation of the Federation of Fly Fishers, Trout Unlimited, independent fly fishing clubs, volunteer staff and generous donations like that presented by Allied Anesthesia. Those interested in supporting PHWFF can do so via this link.