A doctor who exposed the Flint water crisis came to speak about her perspective on society and social justice at Wayne State’s Bernath Auditorium in the David Adamany Undergraduate Library on Jan. 27.

In 2015, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha published data, proving Flint's water was contaminated with lead, according to an article by NPR. She said her perspective on Flint’s water crisis was a “choiceless choice,” meaning there was no other alternative but to publish her findings.

“As a pediatrician and as a public health person, my thought is that lead is probably the oldest and most well-studied neurotoxic poisons known to man with no importance done to centuries,” Hanna-Attisha said.

Hanna-Attisha’s book, “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City,” tells the story of how the Flint water crisis began and where they stand now. In the book, she said it’s her “professional obligation and oath to stand for the kids in Flint.” 

Art major Aimee Frechette said she likes Hanna-Attisha’s advice about finding the strength to stand up for what is right. 

“I am definitely inspired by what she was inspired by, which was her own culture and her family stories and just her works,” Frechette said. “She puts a lot of pride in her work, and I think that’s really important, and you can see that’s really important because of the change she made.”

Hanna-Attisha said she thought about why she needed to stand up for the children of Flint.

“So when I started to reflect on the ‘why’ I did all of this and just hearing the word ‘lead,’ I have literally taken an oath to stand up for children,” Hanna-Attisha said. “But it was also this value system that was instilled in my family roots that created the key for fighting for social justice and speaking out against injustice. We are, however, still under a public health advisory, but will be the third city in Michigan to replace lead pipes. ” 

Global studies and business management major Sally Bdeir, said she loved Hanna-Attisha’s passion for wanting to stand up for not only herself, but also for the kids of Flint. 

“If you see an issue that you are passionate about and that you really care about, go out there and take some action, don’t wait for someone else to do it,” Bdeir said. “I liked how she said her family shaped her to be who she is because I know my roots definitely impacted me, so I really connected with that.” 

In the last few years, Hanna-Attisha and her team launched various pediatric actions to help kids. This includes literacy programs where books get mailed to kids, health services, parenting support, and breastfeeding and nutrition services.  

This also includes the Flint Child Health and Development Fund.

The Flint Child Health and Development Fund supports public health, medical and community-based services that address the long and short-term impacts experienced from the crisis, according to the Greater Flint Health Coalition’s website.

“The Flint Kids Fund supports a lot of these inventions like literacy programs and breastfeeding programs,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said. “We were able to raise $20 million, and we’ve given out about a million dollars to all these services.” 

Dr. Hanna-Attisha mentioned she’s really privileged by having an important platform where she can speak about her experience and public health. 

“I’m going to hold onto that microphone as long as I have to try to help as many kids to shine a light on situations that kids are struggling with all over the place,” Hanna-Attisha said.

My’Kila Allix is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at my.kila.allix@wayne.edu.

Cover photo by Allix.