Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
Physician, scientist and activist who exposed the Flint water crisis
Photo Credit: Brittany Greeson
About Mona Hanna-Attisha
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician, professor, and public health advocate who spearheaded efforts to reveal, publicize, and fix Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. 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, the poisonous levels of lead in the water terrified Dr. Hanna-Attisha, 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 three times 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 a dramatic first-hand 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—an immigrant, a doctor, and a scientist—whose family roots in social justice activism helped her take on the Flint water crisis. In her popular talks, she explores the horrific reality of how misguided austerity policies and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk.
Inspired by the children that she still cares for, Dr. Hanna-Attisha created the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a model program to improve outcomes for Flint children and share best practices throughout the nation. In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Hanna-Attisha, who personally recovered from the virus, continues to be a national public health leader sharing the timely lessons of health equity.
Visit Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s Company Reads page to learn how she motivates organizations seeking to profoundly change the world.
What the Eyes Don’t See: Stories from the Frontlines of the Flint Water Crisis
In this powerful talk, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha delivers a personal account of her research and activism to expose and mitigate the effects of the Flint water crisis. Her dramatic story, from how she used science to prove that Flint children were affected by lead to the brutal backlash she faced after courageously going public with her findings, inspires audiences to safeguard their own communities by speak truth to power.
Praise for Mona Hanna-Attisha
Dr. Mona inspired us. We were challenged to be better advocates for our patients and our communities, and our community and our doctors and medical students are stronger for having listened to the story Dr. Mona told. Ignorance, science denial, and subversion of democracy are real and persistent threats as malignant as corporations that profit from them and Dr. Mona is a brilliant voice in these otherwise troubling times, speaking truth to power, and inspiring us to be our better selves.”— Indiana University School of Medicine
Our readers absolutely loved Dr. Mona and were appreciative of her insights. She’s so energetic and engaging and committed and brilliant and everyone sort of catches ‘the fever’ to do something after hearing her. Dr. Mona’s time with us was magical.— One Maryland One Book
Dr. Mona was truly magnificent. Faculty, staff, and students have been thanking the common reading committee profusely for selecting What the Eyes Don’t See as this year’s common reading, and for bringing Dr. Mona to our campus. If other universities are considering bringing Dr. Mona to their campus, I would encourage them to invite her, in a heartbeat.— Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green State University
Dr. Mona was brilliant this morning. I’ve done this event for 22 years and have heard 22 keynote addresses. Dr. Mona was one of the two best keynote speakers we have ever had. I was in tears more than once during her remarks, as were many people in the room. I talked to so many people as they were leaving and they want her to run for President! That was such an incredible, moving, smart and inspiring keynote address. It’s so easy to lose hope right now. I think she restored the hope and energy of a lot of people this morning. You can’t ask for more than that.— Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Gregory Klemens, Associate Executive Director for Development, Marketing & New Media
Praise for What The Eyes Don’t See
Intimate and subjective…Hanna-Attisha’s quest is full of drama and suspense…She’s a breezy, charismatic raconteur prone to feisty character descriptions…a clarion call to live a life of purpose.— The Washington Post
Amid the crisis that unfolded after the water switch, heroes emerged. What the Eyes Don't See is a thoughtful, at times blistering meditation…weaving her own family story through the book…Hanna-Attisha sheds new light.— Chicago Tribune
In her gripping memoir…She is disarmingly modest about her role…Hanna-Attisha is a chatty and entertaining narrator…Her book has power precisely because she takes the events she recounts so personally…A great virtue of her book is the moral outrage present on every page.— The New York Times Book Review
Personal and emotional, she vividly describes the effects of lead-poisoning on her young patients…She is at her best when recounting the detective work she undertook after a tip-off about lead levels from a friend…‛Flint will not be defined by crisis,’ vows Ms. Hanna-Attisha.— The Economist
The Iraqi American pediatrician who helped expose the Flint water crisis lays bare the bureaucratic bunk and flat-out injustice at the heart of the environmental disgrace—revealing, with the gripping intrigue of a Grisham thriller, ‘the story of a government poisoning its own citizens, and then lying about it.’— O: The Oprah Magazine
Flint is a public health disaster. But it was Dr. Mona, this caring, tough pediatrician turned detective, who cracked the case.— Rachel Maddow
A stirring and personal account . . . For all her doggedness, Hanna-Attisha is a goofy, appealing, very human narrator. . . . Hers is the book I’d recommend to those coming to the issue for the first time; the crisis becomes personalized through the stories of her patients and their parents.— Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
Mona Hanna-Attisha’s account of that urban man-made disaster reads both as a detective story and as an exposé of government corruption. . . . Her book’s message is that we each have the power to fix things, to make the world safer by opening one another’s eyes to problems. Her book reinforced my belief that the first step to becoming a citizen activist is seeing the world as it should be, not as it is given to you.— The Seattle Times
Essential for all readers who care about children, health, and the environment. This should be required reading for public servants as an incisive cautionary tale, and for pediatricians and youth advocates as a story of heroism in the ranks of people who have the capacity to make a difference.— Library Journal (starred review)
She is an unlikely hero—a pediatrician who went up against the forces responsible for poisoning an American city, my hometown of Flint, Michigan. Yet because of her gentle but unrelenting perseverance, she brought the world’s attention to this crime. A story of race, greed, and a crumbling democracy, What the Eyes Don’t See is a brilliantly written book—may it help save every Flint in this country.— Michael Moore
[A] powerful firsthand account . . . Hanna-Attisha’s empathy for her patients and the people of Flint comes through, as do her pride in her Iraqi roots and her persistent optimism. . . . An inspiring work.— Publisher's Weekly
Told with passion and intelligence, What the Eyes Don’t See is an essential text for understanding the full scope of injustice in Flint and the importance of fighting for what’s right.— Booklist (Starred Review)
Beautifully written, What the Eyes Don’t See captures all that is wrong and right in America at this moment. This child of Iraqi immigrants is a true American hero, who told truth to power and galvanized a nation. Everyone who cares about the past and the future of the United States has to read her amazing, heartwarming, and inspiring story.— Gerard Markowitz, co-author of Lead Wars
Books by Mona Hanna-Attisha
Media About Mona Hanna-Attisha
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- Mona Hanna-Attisha travels from Michigan
What the Eyes Don't See
“It’s one thing to point out a problem. It is another thing altogether to step up and work to fix it. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a true American hero.”—Erin Brockovich