Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha rocketed into the international spotlight in 2015 when inspired by a conversation with a friend working for the EPA and the work of researcher Mark Edwards at Virginia Tech she began compiling data regarding the levels of lead present in young children of Flint, Michigan.
As a pediatrician Dr. Attisha was acutely aware of the dangers of being exposed to this powerful neurotoxin–including decreased bone and muscle growth, damage to internal organs, and in some cases actual drops in IQ. As the Head of the Hurley Medical Center’s Pediatric Residency Program she had access to the results of the routine screening of children for lead exposure and what she found was highly concerning. In the two year span since the city had switched its water source the percentage of children in Flint with lead poisoning had doubled overall and in some areas actually tripled.
Knowing that the usual routes of publishing these findings in a peer reviewed journal wasn’t going to be enough to help the children of Flint Dr. Mona held a press conference to share this information with the public. Dismissed at first by critics as trying to cause hysteria it wasn’t long before state officials compared her numbers to theirs and agreed with her findings. Vindication wasn’t what she was looking for though, she wants a plan to help the residents of Flint as they move forward.
Since January of 2016 she has served on the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee and as the Director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Public Health Initiative she has been advocating for programs like universal preschool, nutrition, education and health services to try to give impacted families as much support as possible.
Earning a spot on the TIME 100 Most Influential People list in 2016 she was also honored by Virginia Tech with their newly created Ut Prosim Scholar Award in recognition of singular instances of the application of scholarship in truly extraordinary service to humanity. Hanna-Attisha and Edwards were the commencement speakers at the university’s 2016 ceremony.
Written by Angela Goad