Pediatrician, scientist, activist, and author, Mona Hanna-Attisha is the whistleblower who exposed Flint, Michigan's drinking water crisis. A Michigan State University College of Human Medicine professor, she is the founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children's Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative.
Mona Hanna was born in 1976 to Iraqi parents, both scientists, who had immigrated in the 1970s, during Saddam Hussein's rise to power, to England. The family then moved to the US, settling in Michigan, where Mona went on to graduate from Royal Oak's Kimball High School as class president. Her mother taught English to other immigrants and her dad worked as a metallurgical engineer for General Motors.
She received a bachelor of science from the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment and a master's of public health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She received her medical degree from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and completed her residency and chief residency at the Children's Hospital of Michigan.
Hanna-Attisha is known for her tremendous act of bravery, as she not only used science to prove Flint kids were exposed to lead in the drinking water; but also, at the risk to her own career, she went public and faced a brutal backlash. Upon hearing about lead in the water, Hanna-Attisha began her own investigation and discovered that more children had higher blood lead levels after the drinking water source was changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Lead, a neurotoxin that impacts brain development, greatly affects children whose brains are still in formation. Realizing the urgency for action as children were being poisoned, Hanna-Attisha held a press conference on September 24, 2015 where she revealed her team's findings. She faced dismissal from government officials; however, her quick and insistent activism paid off. The State of Michigan acknowledged her findings, President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency, and the city switched the water back to its original source.
Leading recovery efforts, Hanna-Attisha is the founding donor of the Flint Child Health and Development Fund and founder and director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a model program to mitigate the impact of the crisis. An outspoken national advocate, she has testified five times before the United States Congress and has appeared on countless media outlets and championed the cause of children in Flint and beyond.
Hanna-Attisha was named one of Time magazine's “100 Most Influential People in the World" and one of USA Today's “100 Women of the Century." She was selected as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans and named Michiganian of the Year by
Detroit News. Hanna-Attisha is also the recipient of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation's Fries Prize for Improving Health, the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, the Rose Nader Award for Arab American activism by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and was named the Champion of Justice by ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services).
A widely-acclaimed author, Hanna-Attisha's powerful book,
What the Eyes Don't See, shares the first-hand account of her inspiring story while weaving her family history rooted in social justice. A 2018
New York Times notable selection, her book is a timely playbook of resistance, hope, and personal advocacy for thousands of readers. Of relevance, her memoir features the riveting story of her great uncle, former AUB student Nuri Rufeal, who was one of the few Arab volunteers fighting against fascism during the Spanish Civil War and a leader during Iraq's independence movement.
Mona is married to Elliott Attisha, a pediatrician, and has two daughters, Nina and Layla.