The other morning I heard WDET’s Senior News Editor, Quinn Klinefelter, interview Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha MD, Director of Hurley Pediatrics Program.
You’ll remember that she is the doctor who discovered elevated levels of lead in the blood of children in
Flint (24 Sept 2015) and worked tirelessly to
surface the problem against unremitting opposition by the Governor Snyder and
other state officials.
Earlier (8 Sept 2015) Dr. Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech revealed that 40% of
Flint had high levels of
lead in their City-supplied tap water and recommended that the State of Michigan declare that the water in Flint was not safe for cooking or drinking.
All of this happened - exposing over 100,000 Flint residents, about 16,000 are children, to lead poisoning - due to the botched switch from Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water* to Flint River water (2013) in order to save a few shekels. A decision rendered by Snyder-appointed City of Flint Emergency Manager, Ed Kurtz.**
If Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha had not publicized her findings it is very likely the people of
would still be drinking, foul smelling, particulate loaded, poisoned water.
In my estimation Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is clearly a proven, credible professional as well as a world class hero for taking on the state politicians and battling for the wellbeing of the people of
By the way, did I mention that she is an Iraqi American… a
and an Iraqi immigrant?
While, for me anyway, her place of birth is just not as important as who she is as a person. But for some people in this “Age of Trump” an "immigrant's place of birth" has become a critical issue, despite the fact, as she points out in her article, that… “more than 10,000 doctors in the United States graduated from medical schools in the seven countries listed in the (Pres. Trump’s) recent travel ban.”
So, I thought you’d like to read her recent article which recently appeared in the New York Times.
Will We Lose the Doctor Who Would Stop the Next Flint?**
These days, along with others in the community, I spend my time trying to make sure that the American dream is still a possibility for this city’s kids. We are hoping to reduce the harm stemming from their exposure to lead with a model public health program of family support, home visits, early education, school health services, nutrition, health care access and more.
But as a first-generation Iraqi immigrant, and as a doctor whose job is to train other doctors, many of them immigrants themselves, I fear that the American dream is corroding. I worry about the impact of President Trump’s travel ban, for the moment blocked by court order, and how the Republican Congress will handle immigration issues.
Of course, everyone in this country, except for Native Americans, came from somewhere else. Many of us were fleeing something, or were brought here by force in
original sin. As an immigrant who holds a medical degree, I’m in good company.
The organization that accredits graduate medical training programs says that
there are more than 10,000 licensed physicians in the United States who graduated from
medical school in the seven countries the president listed in his travel ban.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 25 percent of practicing physicians in this country are foreign-trained, with many of them working in the nation’s most vulnerable areas — places like my city and in rural America. Rural counties overwhelmingly voted for President Trump; with his election, they may now lose their health insurance, and their doctors.
What our country stands to lose by walls and bans, in talent, drive, creativity and entrepreneurship, is staggering, but the personal toll is greater. In 1980, my family arrived here full of hope, trading a future of war, fascism and oppression for one of peace, freedom and opportunity. My parents are secular progressives, dissidents who opposed Saddam Hussein’s increasingly murderous and autocratic regime. A future in
Iraq might have included
imprisonment or death at the hands of the government. It is through these
everyday-grateful immigrant eyes that I first saw our country as a 4-year-old
and still see it today.
As a young immigrant, I may have been scared, and my school lunches looked and smelled different (no one knew what hummus or falafel was back then), but I was embraced in the suburban
Detroit community where I grew up as one of
the few brown kids.
The ban, and other equally ignominious limitations to immigration that may be on their way, ignore the contributions of our immigrants. Perhaps these limitations are an effort to return us to a make-believe “Leave It to Beaver” past. Whatever the motivation, my family and millions just like us are intertwined in the fabric of
America. My mom taught English to
recent immigrants, while my dad worked for General Motors as an engineer for 31
years, designing custom alloys. Together, they instilled in me and my brother
an ethic of social justice and service-oriented work while providing us with a
better life. The American dream was our reality.
Today, people still want to come to
America, as it remains the epitome
of freedom and prosperity, the richest country that ever was, and blessed by
tranquillity. Immigrants know that the laws here shelter diversity, protect
rights and property, and provide the opportunity for economic prosperity. America
is as great as ever. And as immigrants we understand it is our obligation to
continue making it great for all of us, no matter where we came from.
Now, though, there are little girls who look just like I did at that age, who see their place in the American dream fading away, which makes me wonder what we all stand to lose. Perhaps we are losing the kid who breaks the code of cancer; or the one who figures out how to make our economy grow better, to lessen inequality and provide more fulfilling jobs; or maybe the kid who starts the next great tech start-up. Six of
America’s seven 2016 Nobel Prize
winners were immigrants. In a previous generation, immigrant autoworkers became
the backbone of the United Auto Workers, which was empowered by the Flint sit-down strike in
the winter of 1936-37.
I grew up in an
America that embraced, supported
and celebrated me and my striving for a better life. I grew up confident and
competent and keenly aware as an immigrant from a broken country that there is
injustice in the world and understanding the need to always fight for justice.
Indeed, this is what has guided and framed my work in Flint, where the children I treat woke to a
nightmare of usurped democracy, environmental injustice and criminal government
kids, the immediate daily struggle continues. Even now, more than a year after
the city’s water problems were discovered, people here must rely on filtered
and bottled water. We are still seeking the long-term government support to
make sure kids here succeed. And while I’m glad I was there to help bring the
Flint water crisis to light, I can’t help wondering if, with new limits on
immigration, we are losing the next pediatrician who will expose a future
public health disaster.
The sanctuary our nation provides benefits all of us, but that is not why we do it. It is the right thing to do. It was right yesterday and it is right in this moment, too. The “mother of exiles” has always embraced our children.
Today, there is a little brown girl like me, stuck beyond our border but hoping to come to this country. She is scared and tired. But her fresh eyes are wide, she is strong and hopeful, and she dreams our American dream.
*One of the largest water and sewer systems in the
, the Detroit
Water and Sewerage Department supplies
water services to 126 communities and seven S.E. Michigan counties. United States
** Michigan Truth Squad:Who approved switch to Flint River? State's answers draw fouls, The Center for Michigan| Bridge Magazine, 21 Jan 2016.
*** Will We Lose the Doctor Who Would Stop the Next Flint?, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, 11 Feb 2017, The New York Times.
Lee Ann Womack - I Hope You Dance- 2000