Máximo J. (Max) Cerame-Vivas

Máximo J. (Max) Cerame-Vivas

Professor of Public Health, San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, San Juan, Puerto Rico

M.A. Marine Biology (1961);  Ph.D. Marine Ecology (1964)

When your mentors become names of buildings, you must have done something right.   For my masters it was Dr. C.G. Bookhout and for my Ph.D. it was Dr I. E. Gray. I studied marine currents as an ecological barrier for my dissertation on Cape Hatteras, requesting the assistance of Marine helicopters to release two thousand drift bottles over Diamond Shoals. On the designated morning for the first release I was upset at the delay of the aircraft scheduled to pick me up at Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort. At about ten that morning Dr. I.E. Gray called me from Durham: “Hi, Max, there are two Marine helicopters here on campus looking for you. What do you want me to do with them?” The helos had gone to Duke Campus instead of Duke Marine Lab.

Upon finishing my M.A. and Ph.D. at Duke, I returned to a faculty position at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras. I was soon transferred to UPR Mayagüez to head the Institute of Marine Biology there, which, under my direction, soon became the multidisciplinary Department of Marine Sciences offering masters and Ph.D. degrees. After serving as expert witness on behalf of fishermen who were suing petrochemical industries for dumping raw industrial discharges to their fishing waters, a case that was lost, I then sued the government via a mandamus for allowing industrial discharges into marine coastal waters. The lower court dismissed the mandamus on grounds that I did not own Puerto Rico’s coastal waters and had no standing to sue. I appealed and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court granted me standing to sue. This was before the EPA had come into being. At a later lawsuit in the San Juan Federal Court against a tanker that voluntarily spilled crude near the site of the Marine Sciences field lab, the court ruled against the polluter. "This settlement closed a very important chapter in the history of the Federal Court in San Juan, by establishing case law on environmental damages caused by an oil spill —a first in the international community.  Henceforth, the polluter would be responsible for the clean-up expenses and environmental damages."  (From History of the Federal Court in Puerto Rico. G.A. Baralt, 2004. Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas.)

Today I teach at the School of Public Health of the San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, and am a newspaper columnist, an artist, a lecturer and a writer.

"Looking back upon my career of over half a century, I'm convinced I went to the right School."

Program Area

PhD