A Flint children’s fund is $10,000 richer, thanks to $5000 won and donated by Mona Hanna-Attisha MD MPH and a matching donation from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Hanna-Attisha, director of the Hurley Pediatric Residency Training Program, was invited to compete in the ABC-TV program, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” because she was named a Hometown Hero for her work related to the lead-tainted water in the Flint area, which resulted in increased lead levels in children. Her research findings were published in the February 2016 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Prior to that, her public release of results prompted action to prevent further exposure to lead and to address potential health effects, all of which have received much national attention.
In fact, Hanna-Attisha is accustomed to talking with NPR, TIME magazine, national news shows, and other organizations. But when the “Millionaire” TV show producers first contacted her in summer, she was skeptical.
“I thought it was a prank call,” said the 39-year-old pediatrician. “I didn’t think the show actually existed. I thought Regis Philbin was still doing it.”
She can be forgiven for not being up to date on the latest in TV shows. After all, she has been extremely busy with her own family (including husband Elliott and their two children), the residency training program at Hurley, and heading up the Hurley-Michigan State University Pediatric Public Health Initiative, formed to assess, monitor and mitigate the lead crisis at the community level.
But Hanna-Attisha eventually agreed to participate, as long as any of her winnings could be donated to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund (FCHD), formed to raise money to help kids in the Flint area following the water contamination.
ABC taped the segment in August, but contestants weren’t allowed to talk about it until after the show aired.
“The hardest part about those three months was keeping my mouth closed. I couldn’t tell anybody,” Hanna-Attisha said.
Finally, the show was aired and watched by Hanna-Attisha, friends and colleagues during a watch party at the downtown Flint Blackstone’s restaurant (organized by the Hurley Foundation as another fund-raiser).
Hanna-Attisha, who is tireless when speaking about children’s issues, doesn’t relish attention on herself for other purposes.
“To see my reactions and my funny facial expressions and people’s reactions, it was a little awkward, but it was a lot of fun,” Hanna-Attisha said.
During the show, she correctly answered questions about pop culture and history but missed when asked about glabella, which, it turns out, is the area between the eyebrows, above the nose, where some people grow “unibrows.”
Still, she brought home $5000 for the kids. And, said Kathi Horton of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, which manages the FCHD, the CS Mott Foundation matched that with another $5000, for a total of $10,000.
As of December 2016, the FCHD has received more than $10.9 million in gifts and has awarded 1.99 million in grants.
As for Hanna-Attisha, she will continue speaking out for “her kids,” that is, all of the children in the Flint area, she said.