On Monday Oct. 25, attendees in the Malcolm Field Theater and virtually gathered to hear the story of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha in her own words.
Hanna-Attisha, often referred to simply as “Dr. Mona,” is a Flint pediatrician who gained national recognition for exposing the Flint Water Crisis.
Pre-health professions advisor Heidi Lang helped put on the event, originally scheduled for March 2020. Overall, Lang was happy with the turnout.
“I was pleased to see the mix of students, faculty, and community members engaging with us,” Lang said. “We had a strong turnout and will widely share the recording as it is a message we want as many people as possible to hear.”
Lang said that not only prehealth and science majors, but future educators, political science majors and those interested in ethics can all gain something from the lecture.
Hanna-Attisha began the lecture speaking about Flint’s proserous history in the car industry, and how the city’s rapid downfall began after most manufacturing jobs left the area.
After years of financial struggle, an emergency manager was brought in to run the city, a choice
based upon the emergency manager law approved by the state ,which went directly against what citizens voted for.
Hanna-Attisha said this blatant disregard for democracy is part of what makes this story still relevant seven years later.
“This is a democracy story,” she said. “This is what happens when we lose representation, when we lose voices at the table. […] There are today efforts where democracy is trying to be usurped, be it with voter suppression laws or voter ID laws, gerrymandering or mass incarceration, the list goes on. There are ongoing efforts to try to take away power from majority-minority communities.”
When emergency management switched the city from sourcing tap water from Detroit to using its own resources from the Flint River in late March 2014 to save money, it was not long before Hanna-Attisha’s patients began voicing their concerns about the water.
At first, the doctor dismissed the concerns as city officials and water experts across the board defended the water quality.
That is, until a friend of hers working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told her that the city’s lead pipes were likely being corroded by the water, poisoning Flint residents in the process.
“That is the exact moment when my life changed,” Hanna-Attisha
said. “When I heard about the possibility of there being lead in the water, because I respect the science of what lead does.”
After obtaining public health records detailing the increased lead levels in the blood of Flint children, Hanna-Attisha blew the whistle on the crisis during a press conference at the hospital where she practiced.
Hanna-Attisha then detailed the difficulty that arose from the backlash she faced.
Biology senior Jordan Simon said she was affected upon hearing the challenges Hanna-Attisha experienced.
“One huge surprise was when Dr. Mona spoke on her struggles,” Simon said. “It was truly inspiring to hear how Dr. Mona kept going, motivated by her patients, even though she felt ‘small’ and questioned, ‘should I even be doing this?’”
Hanna-Attisha ended her lecture leaving attendees with what she calls her “four P’s:” passion, people, persistence and preparedness. Lang said this parting note stuck with her as a mentor for future health professionals.
Simon said she was touched by this message.
“I caught myself multiple times with goosebumps and even tears in my eyes,” she said. “I will definitely always remember to fight and advocate for all of my patients the way Dr. Mona does.”
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