Physician, scientist and activist who exposed the Flint water crisis
Speaking at Texas State University
September 18, 2019
6 p.m. at Evans Auditorium
COMMON EXPERIENCE INSIGHT SERIES
Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., MPH, FAAP, is a pediatrician, professor, and public health advocate who spearheaded efforts to expose the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, a change in the city’s water source resulted in astronomical amounts of lead leaching into the drinking water, causing irreversible damage to Flint’s residents. As a local pediatrician, Dr. Hanna-Attisha was alarmed by the poisonous levels of lead in the water, and she was shocked that the government ignored complaints, protests, and reports from citizens, journalists, and experts. She knew that the only way to stop the lead poisoning would be to present undeniable proof on a national platform.
In a tremendous act of bravery, Dr. Hanna-Attisha held a press conference where she revealed her team’s findings before they were peer-reviewed, prioritizing the health of her community over the risk to her career. Dr. Hanna-Attisha faced a brutal backlash, but her persistence paid off: the city switched the water back to its original source and President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency. She has since been called to testify twice before the United States Congress, was awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award by PEN America, and was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s powerful book, What the Eyes Don’t See, is Texas State's 2019-2020 Common Reading selection. The book is a dramatic firsthand account of the signature environmental disaster of our time and a riveting narrative of personal advocacy. A medical and scientific thriller, the book grapples with our country’s history of environmental injustice while telling the inspiring personal story of Dr. Hanna-Attisha, whose family roots in social justice activism helped her take on the Flint water crisis. She explores the horrific reality of how misguided austerity policies and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk.
A passionate activist, Dr. Hanna-Attisha created the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a model program to mitigate the impact of the Flint water crisis. As founder and director of this organization, she combines community and clinical programs, childhood health policy and advocacy, and robust evaluation to give Flint children a better chance at future success.