Platinum Award: Outstanding Contribution to Healthcare in 2016
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
Director of Hurley Children's Hospital's Pediatric Residency Program and assistant professor of pediatrics and human development at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha immediately took action when she learned that the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, was very likely contaminated with lead. The Hurley Medical Center in Flint, where she directs the pediatric residents program, routinely screens children for lead exposure, so she compared the lead levels in blood samples taken before and after Flint's water supply was switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River.
Her findings were horrifying — the percentage of children with lead poisoning had doubled and even tripled in some cases.
Before Dr. Hanna-Attisha gathered the blood sample data, city and state officials had routinely denied there was a problem. Driven by a sense of ethical, professional, and moral responsibility, Dr. Hanna-Attisha called a press conference to announce her findings. State officials dismissed the data and ridiculed her, but she did not back down. Even as the attacks took a toll on her physical health, she continued to fight for the children of Flint and their families.
Thanks to her determination, courage, and persistence, public officials finally took action. As of August 2016, charges had been brought against nine state employees and two companies for their roles in the Flint water crisis.
Given the serious long-term health consequences of lead exposure, Dr. Hanna-Attisha's work in treating, aiding, and advocating for Flint's children is far from done. She's leading the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, created this year by Michigan State University and Hurley Children's Hospital to address Flint's wide lead exposure and provide tools and resources for the assessment, continued research and monitoring, and interventions necessary for improving children's health and development.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha also aims to raise a minimum of $100 million for the Flint Child Development Fund, a resource to supplement state and federal funding to support the short- and long-term needs of exposed children.