Flint doctor to be ‘Millionaire’ contestant

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will appear on the game show Thursday for ‘Hometown Heroes Week’

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will be in the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” hot seat 3 p.m. Thursday on CBS in Detroit for “Hometown Heroes Week.”

Though she’s not allowed to say if she won a million bucks, or nothing at all, the doctor known for discovering elevated levels of lead in Flint children who drank the city’s water says it was an “amazing” opportunity to be on the trivia game show that gives contestants a chance to win $1 million.

“It was a really surreal experience to be there with the lights and the cameras and trying to win money for Flint kids,” she said.

Hanna-Attisha could keep any earnings, but she chose to donate any winnings to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

“There was no obligation to donate, but this is why I did it — to be able to give back to our kids and fund a lot of the programming that our kids need,” she said.

She added that host Chris Harrison has followed the Flint water crisis and supported efforts to help residents.

“He was aware of the Flint story and was alarmed, just as the entire nation has been just mind-boggled that this could happen,” she said. “So it was nice to be with folks who were really rooting for Flint.”

Other “Hometown Heroes,” or community leaders the show deems as “going out of their way to make the world a better place,” include Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, who stopped a shooter from killing passengers on a train to Paris last year. They’ll kick off the week on Monday. Brandon Stanton, founder of the blog “Humans of New York,” appears Tuesday, and Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, aka “Doctor Mike,” an Instagram star named “Sexiest Doctor Alive” by People magazine, will appear Friday.

Hanna-Attisha admited the last time she watched “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was when Regis Philbin hosted the show when it first aired in 1999. (Meredith Vieira took over in 2002 for 11 seasons, followed by Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews and Harrison.) When representatives called inviting her to be a contestant and film the episode in Las Vegas in August, she said she was a bit skeptical.

“I’ve gotten so many strange calls this last year. So I had my secretary check. I was like, ‘Does this show really exist? Is this a prank call?’ ” she said laughing. “It was for real; it still exists. It turns out my mother-in-law watches it every day, so she's going to be watching it for sure.”

Now the director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative through Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital, Hanna-Attisha said she’d like to host a watch party, but since the segment airs in the afternoon, she’ll likely be working at the hospital.

But if you can get to a TV, she recommended tuning in.

“My No. 1 goal was to keep talking about Flint, and it gave me the opportunity to keep talking about Flint,” she said.

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Twitter: @Steph_Steinberg