Mona Hanna-Attisha

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Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
Mona Hanna-Attisha
Born Mona Hanna
1976 (age 41–42)
Sheffield, England
Alma mater University of Michigan (B.S., M.P.H)
Michigan State University (M.D.)
Occupation Pediatrician and professor
Employer Hurley Medical Center (pediatrician)
Michigan State University (professor)
Known for Uncovering the Flint water crisis

Mona Hanna-Attisha (born 1976) is a pediatrician and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint water crisis. Her research revealed children were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in Flint, Michigan. She is now the director of an initiative to mitigate the impact of the crisis. She is commonly referred to as "Dr. Mona".[1]

Early life and education[edit]

She was born in Sheffield, England. Her parents are Iraqi scientists and dissidents who fled during Saddam Hussein's regime.[2][3] She grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan and graduated from Royal Oak's Kimball High School.[4] In 2017, she penned a New York Times opinion about her immigrant story and the impact of President Donald Trump's immigration restrictions titled Corroding the American Dream.[2]

Hanna-Attisha received her Bachelor of Science from University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment and Masters of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She completed her residency and chief residency at Wayne State University/Children's Hospital of Michigan.[5] She is an associate professor at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Flint water crisis[edit]

Role in exposing lead levels[edit]

On 24 September 2015, in a press conference at Flint's Hurley Medical Center, Dr. Hanna-Attisha revealed that Flint children's blood lead levels doubled after the water was switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River in April 2014.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha conducted her research after talking to a high-school friend, Elin Warn Betanzo, a former Environmental Protection Agency Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water employee and water engineer. Betanzo told Hanna-Attisha that Marc Edwards, a water engineer and professor from Virginia Tech and his team of Flint Water Study researchers, found high levels of lead in Flint residents' homes.[6][7] Even though Hanna-Attisha was not provided the data she sought from the State of Michigan, she used hospital electronic medical records as data for her study.[8][9]

At a risk to her career, Hanna-Attisha revealed her findings at the 24 September 2015 press conference before her research was scientifically peer reviewed, because of the public health implications.[10] Hanna-Attisha's findings were later published in the American Journal of Public Health.[11] Hanna Attisha’s findings were confirmed in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July 2016, and is recognized as an underestimate of exposure.[12]

At Dr. Hanna-Attisha's 24 September 2015 press conference she urged residents, particularly children, to stop drinking the water, to end Flint River as a water source as soon as possible and urged the City of Flint issue a health advisory.[13] A day after Dr.Hanna-Attisha released her study, Flint issued a health advisory advising residents, particularly children, to minimize exposure to Flint tap water.[14] The water source was switched back to the Detroit river on 16 October 2015.[15] Later, the City of Flint, the State of Michigan and the United States made emergency declarations.[16]

Dr. Hanna-Attisha's research was initially ridiculed by the State of Michigan, when a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson accused her of being an "unfortunate researcher" "splicing and dicing numbers" who was causing "near hysteria."[17] About ten days later, after The Detroit Free Press published its own findings consistent with Dr. Hanna-Attisha's findings and after Hanna-Attisha engaged in one-on-one conversations with Michigan's chief medical officer, the State of Michigan backed down and concurred with her findings.[18][19] Later, at the press conference in which the State of Michigan acknowledged the lead in water crisis, Department of Environmental Quality officials apologized to Hanna-Attisha.[20] In his 19 January 2016 State of the State address, Governor Snyder publicly thanked Hanna-Attisha and Edwards for sounding the alarm about the Flint water crisis.[21][22]

Advocacy and program involvement[edit]

Dr. Hanna-Attisha testified twice before Congress about the Flint Water Crisis and penned an op/ed advocating for federal assistance for Flint children exposed as a result of the crisis published in the New York Times.[23] Eventually, in part due to Dr. Hanna-Attisha's advocacy, $100 million in federal dollars was allocated to Flint in addition to approximately $250 million in state dollars to address the crisis.[24]

She is the director of Hurley Hospital's Pediatric Residency program.[25] Since the Flint Water Crisis, she also became the director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a partnership between Hurley Medical Center and Michigan State University, to optimize the outcomes of Flint children.[26] Through community and clinical programs, childhood health policy and advocacy, and robust evaluation, the Pediatric Public Health Initiative works with many partners, including Flint's heroic parents and kids, as a center of excellence, with the primary goal of mitigating the impact of the Flint Water Crisis and serving as a national resource for best practices.[27]

Also in response to the crisis, Hanna-Attisha worked to establish, was a founding donor, raises money for and is on the advisory board of the Flint Child Health and Development Fund.[28] In one year, the Fund raised over $17 million and awarded over $2 million in grants directly supporting Flint kids' health and development.[29]

Hanna-Attisha was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to three public health commissions formed in response to the Flint Water Crisis, the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee,[30] the Michigan Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board,[31] and the Michigan Public Health Commission.[32]

Book "What the Eyes Don't See"[edit]

Hanna-Attisha wrote what has been described as a dramatic first-hand account of the Flint Water Crisis with the "gripping intrigue of a Grisham thriller."[33][34] The book was published by Random House imprint One World by editor-in-chief Chris Jackson. The release date for Hanna-Attisha's book, What the Eyes Don't See was June 19, 2018.[35]

Anonymous Content optioned the book rights to make a movie, to be produced by Michael Sugar and Rosalie Swedlin, and written/directed by Cherien Dabis.[36]

News and television appearances[edit]

Hanna-Attisha’s role exposing the Flint Water Crisis was profiled by CBS Sunday Morning, "The Flint water crisis: A loss of trust". ,CNN[37] Michigan Public Radio,[38] the PBS News Hour,[39][40] the Washington Post,[41] New York Times,[42][43] the Detroit News,[44] and the Detroit Free Press[45] among others. Rachel Maddow famously called Hanna-Attisha a "bad ass" for exposing the water crisis and refusing to back down when the state attempted to minimize the effect of the lead crisis.[46]

Hanna-Attisha gave a TEDMED talk entitled "Flint's Fight for America's Children" on 1 November 2016.[47]

Hanna-Attisha was also profiled on ABC's 2016 end-of-year TV special "Game Changers with Robin Roberts" on 21 December 2016.[48] Hanna-Attisha was a guest on Larry Wilmore's The Nightly Show where she received a coveted "Keep it 100" award.[49] Hanna-Attisha also appeared on a special "Who Wants to be A Millionaire" in "Hometown Heroes Week" on 27 October 2016. She pledged to give her winnings to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund.[50]

Awards and honors[edit]

Hanna-Attisha, for her role in exposing the Flint Water Crisis and her public health advocacy in response to the criis, was named one of Time Magazine's Most Influential People in 2016 and she was also named to the Politico 50. She was also the recipient of the 2016 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and the PEN American Center James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Award and one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans of 2016.[51] Hanna-Attisha was also named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News.[52]

She was awarded the Rose Nader Award for Arab American activism by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)[53] and named the Champion of Justice by ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services).[54] In 2016 Hanna-Attisha was the commencement speaker at Michigan State University, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Virginia Tech as well as two other universities.[55][56] In 2017 she was the commencement speaker at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources.

Hanna-Attisha has also been recognized by environmental organizations, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Ecology Center and Children's Environmental Health Network.[57][58][59][60] She was also named a Union of Concerned Scientists 2016 Got Science? Champion.[61]

On 30 March 2017, Hanna-Attisha was named an honorary co-chair of the March for Science. On 21 July 2017, Hanna-Attisha and Edwards were jointly awarded the first Disobedience Award by the MIT Media Lab for "for defying conventions of peer review as they sought to bring attention to Flint's water crisis before more people were affected."[62] Hanna-Attisha and Edwards donated the $250,000 award to victims of the crisis.[63]

Hanna-Attisha was awarded the 22nd Heinz Award for public policy in September 2017 for exposing the Flint Water Crisis and her subsequent work.[64]

Personal life[edit]

Her husband, Elliott Attisha, is a pediatrician in Detroit, Michigan. They have two daughters.


  1. ^ Riley, Rochelle (6 February 2016). "Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha goes from doctor to global hero". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 31 January 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Corroding the American Dream."
  3. ^ Sumaia, Masoom (30 January 2016). "Meet the Whistleblower of the Flint Water Scandal". Muslim Girl. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Flint doctor who exposed lead in water started activism as Royal Oak student". 
  5. ^ Anglebrandy, Gary (26 September 2016). "100 Most Influential Women". Crain's. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  6. ^ "High school friend sounded first alert to Flint's Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha". 
  7. ^ "A long friendship put spotlight on Flint water crisis". 
  8. ^ "Flint doctor used Epic Systems records to expose lead crisis". 
  9. ^ "Flint doctor makes state see light about lead in water". 
  10. ^ Feed, Ben. "Flint pediatrician at center of water crisis: 'You have to use your voice'". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  11. ^ Hanna-Attisha, Mona; LaChance, Jenny; Sadler, Richard Casey; Champney Schnepp, Allison (February 2016). "Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Children Associated With the Flint Drinking Water Crisis: A Spatial Analysis of Risk and Public Health Response". American Journal of Public Health. 106 (2): 283. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  12. ^ Kennedy, Chinaro; Yard, Ellen; Dignam, Timothy; Buchanan, Sharunda; Condon, Suzanne; Brown, Mary Jean; Raymond, Jaime; Rogers, Helen Schurz; Sarisky, John; Castro, Rey de; Arias, Ileana; Breysse, Patrick (1 January 2016). "Blood Lead Levels Among Children Aged <6 Years — Flint, Michigan, 2013–2016".; MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 65 (25): 650–654. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6525e1. Retrieved 22 January 2017. 
  13. ^ Fonger, Ron. "Elevated lead found in more Flint kids after water switch, study finds". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  14. ^ Fonger, Ron. "Flint to issue lead in water warning after push from doctors, health officials". 
  15. ^ Daniel, Bethencourt. "Flint taps Detroit water; it'll take 3 weeks for safe use". Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  16. ^ Egan, Paul. "President Obama declares emergency in Flint". Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  17. ^ Erb, Robin. "Flint doctor makes state see light about lead in water". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  18. ^ Tanner, Kristi. "State data confirms higher blood-lead levels in Flint kids". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  19. ^ "State's top doctor admits 'missed opportunity' for earlier Flint response". 
  20. ^ Rodrick, Stephen. "Who Poisoned Flint, Michigan?". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  21. ^ Egan, Paul. "Snyder apologizes for Flint crisis, to release e-mails". Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  22. ^ "2016 Michigan State of the State Transcript" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  23. ^ Hanna-Attisha, Mona (26 March 2016). "The Future for Flint's Children". New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  24. ^ "EPA Awards $100 Million to Michigan for Flint Water Infrastructure Upgrades". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved May 8, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Mona Hanna-Attisha". Hurley Medical Center. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  26. ^ White, Russ (23 February 2016). "Mona Hanna-Attisha: "Flipping the story" in Flint". Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  27. ^ "Pediatric Public Health Initiative". Michigan State University. April 14, 2017. Archived from the original on 2016-01-30. Retrieved May 8, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Flint Water Crisis Response – Foundation for Flint". 
  29. ^ "Flint Water Crisis Response - Foundation for Flint". Community Foundation of Grater Flint. Retrieved May 8, 2017. [dead link]
  30. ^ Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee
  31. ^ Michigan Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board
  32. ^ Michigan Public Health Commission
  33. ^ Hart, Michelle. "O's Top Books of Summer". Retrieved June 25, 2018. 
  34. ^ Wilson, Kristian (May 20, 2016). "Who Is Mona Hanna-Attisha? The Flint Activist Just Signed A Book Deal". Bustle. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  35. ^ Hanna-Attisha, Mona. "What the Eyes Don't See". Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  36. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (April 28, 2017). "Movie on Pediatrician Dr. Mona, Who Sounded Alarm on Lead Poisoning of Flint, Michigan Kids". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  37. ^ "Flint doctor's fight to expose lead poisoning". 
  38. ^ "Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a hero for our time". 
  39. ^ "After Flint's lead crisis, the 'most important medication' for kids is education". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  40. ^ Baldwin, Laura. "In Flint, public trust poisoned by toxic drinking water crisis". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  41. ^ "This pediatrician is working to save 9,000 young lives in Flint, Mich". 
  42. ^ "Flint Weighs Scope of Harm to Children Caused by Lead in Water". 
  43. ^ "When the Water Turned Brown". 
  44. ^ "469 4 A year of sacrifice for doctor, family over Flint". 
  45. ^ "Free Press. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha goes from doctor to global hero". 
  46. ^ "Michigan's Snyder pressed for action on Flint". Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  47. ^ "Mona Hanna-Attisha Flint's Fight for America's Children". TEDMED. Retrieved September 26, 2017. 
  48. ^ Hawkins, Kayla. "Lin-Manuel Miranda Tells Robin Roberts His Next Musical Won't Be Historical In ABC Special". Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  49. ^ "Mona Hanna-Attisha Sheds Light on the Michigan Water Crisis". Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  50. ^ Steinberg, Stephanie. "Flint doctor to be 'Millionaire' contestant". Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  51. ^ "2016 Ten Outstanding Young Americans". Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2017. 
  52. ^ [1]
  53. ^
  54. ^ Champion of Justice
  55. ^ Anglebrandt, Gary. "Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  56. ^ "Hanna-Attisha tells MSU grads to stand up, speak out". 
  57. ^ "Children's Environmental Health Network". Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  58. ^ "Fourth Annual Innovation in Conservation Gala". 
  59. ^ "Mona Hanna-Attisha: Unwavering voice for Flint's children". 
  60. ^ "Ecology Center's Annual Dinner". 
  61. ^ "Announcing the 2016 Got Science? Champions". Union of Concerned Scientists. December 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  62. ^ Ito, Joi (July 20, 2017). "Announcing the winners of the Media Lab Disobedience Award". 
  63. ^ Goodin-Smith, Oona (July 21, 2017). "Two Flint water crisis whistle-blowers win MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award". MLIVE. Retrieved July 26, 2017. 
  64. ^ Mandak, Joe (September 14, 2017). "Doctor who sounded alarm for Flint water crisis honored by Heinz Family Foundation". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved September 26, 2017. 

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