Doc, prof who exposed Flint among Time’s influential

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

A well-known Flint pediatrician has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People after she helped spotlight the city’s water crisis by proving local children had high lead levels in their blood.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha shares the spot with civil-engineer and whistle-blower Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor whose sampling last summer first identified the presence of high lead levels in the city water.

The duo took the 20th spot on the list, which will appear in the May 2 issue available starting Friday, according to a statement released by the Hurley Children’s Hospital, where Hanna-Attisha works as director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative. They received 1.1 percent of the total vote.

“We are very proud of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha for the outstanding work she has done to help the children and families of Flint,” said Dr. Aron Sousa, interim dean of MSU’s College of Human Medicine. “Her science and advocacy demonstrate why public intellectual institutions like hospitals and universities are important to the health and safety of Americans. It is nice that Time has recognized Mona, but her work and energy have made us very proud already.”

In response to the honor, Hanna-Attisha flipped the attention back onto the her city’s struggling residents.

“I am honored and humbled to be on the Time 100 Most Influential People list. However, the most influential people in my world are the people of Flint — the smart, strong and resilient people of Flint that are approaching their third year of unsafe water,” she said. “I hope this recognition continues to bring awareness to the ongoing Flint water crisis, and the very human story behind the crisis. I would like to thank Time magazine for the honor and everyone for their votes and extensive support.”

Hanna-Attisha and Edwards appear under the list’s “Pioneers” section, alongside notables including Aziz Ansari and Caitlyn Jenner. Other sections include Titans, Artists, Leaders, and Icons. The full list is available here.

In its thirteenth year, the list “recognizes the activism, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals,” according to the hospital’s statement. Others who made the list this year include President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, talk show hosts Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In a tribute to Hanna-Attisha and Edwards post with the list, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow praised the two for shining a national spotlight on a “an ignorant decision about water treatment that ruined the city’s pipes and poisoned the town.”

Maddow noted that Flint residents “knew something was wrong right away” after state officials switched Flint’s water source from the Detroit system to the Flint river, opting against the use of chemicals designed to prevent lead corrosion.

“But to get anyone to listen, it took civil-engineering professor Marc Edwards blowing the whistle on lead in the water and then Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a local pediatrician, testing Flint’s kids, proving they’d been poisoned,” Maddow said. “Up against official ignorance and indifference, Edwards and Hanna-Attisha were right, they were brave, and they were insistent.

“Flint is still a crime scene, but these two caring, tough researchers are the detectives who cracked the case.”

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