Guardian Angels Catholic School Recognizes Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D. MPH
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week here at Guardian Angels Catholic School, we are honored to recognize a courageous alumna who has put her Catholic values to good use in Flint, Michigan. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who exposed the dangerous levels of lead in the water in Flint, is a 1990 graduate of our school. She has said that it was the foundation of service instilled by her parents and teachers that has formed her into the woman she is today: “This school taught me to love all our neighbors, no matter where they are from—religion, color, anything.” It is that love of neighbor and a desire to help those in need that led to her career in medicine—and some very important discoveries.
Fr. Gerry LeBoeuf invited Dr. Mona to return to her alma mater on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 in order to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award. She was asked to address the student body of both Guardian Angels Catholic School and Bishop Foley Catholic High School at a special Mass held for all students in grades K-12.
During her remarks, Dr. Mona shared three lessons that she learned while here at Guardian Angels. First of all, she told the students to “Do your homework.” While in grade school, she learned to write well and to appreciate math and science from her teachers. One key figure in her life was Mrs. Nancy Sadowski, her fifth grade math and science teacher. Mrs. Sadowski was present at the Mass and was pleased to have the opportunity to tell Dr. Mona how proud she was of her and her accomplishments. She praised her as a “pioneer,” as someone who embraced a STEM-based career before the acronym STEM even existed. Dr. Mona’s sixth, seventh, and eighth grade science teacher, Ms. Connie Eisenhart, was also present at the Mass as she is still teaching science to the young students at Guardian Angels to this day. Ms. Eisie remembers Dr. Mona as a “very hard worker who studied all the time.” Dr. Mona used her knowledge of math and science to do the research needed to tell the state of Michigan that the water in Flint was causing harm to the children. At first, she was disregarded and told that she was wrong. Dr. Mona then had to use what she had learned from many years of study to prove that her data was correct: “If you know your science and your math, and you know how to present it—in writing and talking—you will have the courage to stand up for what is right.”
As her speech continued, Dr. Mona also reminded the students to “Love your neighbor.” She explained to them that she was an immigrant born to Iraqi parents, and she and her brother were two of the few students of color in their school. Rather than being perceived as different because of their appearance or the contents of their lunchboxes, they were welcomed into the GA family. They were supported, loved, and encouraged for being different. Dr. Mona revealed that this, in turn, increased her confidence and helped her to realize the importance of loving everyone.
Tied to this lesson is the third lesson of “Looking after each other.” Dr. Mona knows what it means to look after others as she spends her every day working with and caring for children, specifically children who are underserved. As she says, “My kids in Flint are just like my kids. I love them and that’s why I care and fight for them.” Dr. Mona encouraged the students to use their brains, use their knowledge, and use their voice to look after each other and make the world a better place.
It was with great pride that Fr. Gerry presented Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha with her Distinguished Alumni Award, which reads:
In recognition of your commitment to living out
the “Golden Rule” as a voice for the voiceless.
Look after one another (Luke 10:35)
We, at Guardian Angels, are honored to know that Dr. Mona still traces her values of love and service back to her early days in Catholic education for that is what the celebration of Catholic Schools Week is all about. During this week long observation, we focus on the value of Catholic education and its contributions to our church, our communities, and our nation. Guardian Angels Catholic School’s students and staff are proud of Dr. Mona’s contributions and know that she will continue to serve others entrusted to her care.