Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a nationally acclaimed pediatrician and public health advocate who exposed the Flint water crisis, will deliver the commencement address at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences graduation ceremony on Friday, May 20.
The commencement ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. in Savage Arena. More than 200 students will receive doctor of medicine, doctor of philosophy or master’s degrees.
Hanna-Attisha rose to national prominence in 2015 when she was the first to uncover elevated blood lead levels in Flint, Mich., children following the city’s 2014 cost-saving decision to change the source of its water supply.
At the time, Hanna-Attisha was an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University. Her findings shed light on a public health crisis that continues to reverberate across Michigan and opened a national conversation about access to safe drinking water.
“What happened to me in Flint reaffirmed why I went into medicine,” she said. “I was in the right place at the right time with the right team and the right training to make a difference. I went into this profession like so many of these graduates — to make a difference and help people.”
Now the C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at Michigan State, Hanna-Attisha is the founder and director of the Michigan State-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative. She also continues to advocate for Flint’s children and was one of Michigan’s leading voices on the importance of COVID-19 vaccination.
“Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha exemplifies the kind of physician we want our medical students to become. She is a talented clinician-scientist and a passionate advocate for her community — particularly the most vulnerable members of that community,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Her clinical and investigative work has made an immeasurable difference in the lives of so many people. We’re thrilled to have her join us at Commencement and share in the celebration of our graduating class.”
Hanna-Attisha, who detailed her experiences with the Flint water crisis and her own background as the daughter of Iraqi immigrants in the 2018 book, “What the Eyes Don’t See,” said she wants UToledo students to recognize the privilege and power they have to make a positive difference.
“I hope what my address reaffirms to our graduates is the gravity of this profession. They’re going to be on the frontline not only at the bedside and the bench, but also in the policy space on behalf of our patients and our communities,” she said. “I hope I can remind the graduates why they went into these professions and give a playbook to serve and make the world better.”
Hanna-Attisha was selected by a committee of medical students and faculty from a national pool in recognition of her extraordinary accomplishments. In addition to delivering the keynote address, Hanna-Attisha will be awarded an honorary doctor of science degree.
This year’s commencement also will recognize the 50th anniversary of the first graduating class of physicians from what was then the Medical College of Ohio. Including the class of 2022, the institution has conferred more than 5,500 doctor of medicine degrees.
The College of Medicine and Life Sciences will livestream the commencement ceremony on its website.