School of Public Health Presents: ‘The Flint Water Crisis - A Discussion with 2023 Axelrod Prize Recipient Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’

Drinking water fountain spurts water
Photo by Taichi Nakamura /

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 28, 2023) — The University at Albany’s School of Public Health (SPH) will host Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Michigan State University for its annual Axelrod Lecture on April 3 at 4:00 p.m.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician, scientist, advocate and author whose research played a critical role in publicly exposing the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, with a special focus on its effects on children. She is the recipient of the School of Public Health’s 2023 Axelrod Prize, which recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of public health at the intersection of academia and government service at the local, state or federal level.

The event is open to the public and admission is free with advance registration.

Hosting a Public Health Hero

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Michigan State University
2023 Axelrod Prize recipient Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Michigan State University. Image provided.

In 2014, the city of Flint changed its municipal water supply source to the Flint River. This shift caused the contamination of the city’s drinking water, which exposed residents to dangerous levels of lead. Dr. Hanna-Attisha, the director of the Hurley Medical Center’s pediatric residency program, was instrumental in publicly documenting increases in blood lead levels among children, which prompted a federal public health emergency. She has also been a leader in recovery efforts in Flint, and advocates for pediatric health nationally and globally.

During this year’s event, Dr. Hanna-Attisha will discuss her work in conversation with Interim Dean of UAlbany’s School of Public Health Mary Gallant.

“The Flint water crisis is one of the worst instances of environmental injustice in recent times,” said Gallant. “Dr. Hanna-Attisha is a public health hero, and her work is a great example of using science to speak truth to power in order to advocate and effect change on behalf of some of our most vulnerable citizens. We are delighted to honor Dr. Hanna-Attisha, and Dr. David Axelrod’s legacy, with this event at the beginning of National Public Health Week.”

Dr. Hanna-Attisha is the C. S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at Michigan State’s College of Human Medicine and founding director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative. She was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and recognized as one of USA Today’s Women of the Century for her work on the Flint water crisis. She is also the author of “What the Eyes Don't See,” one of The New York Times 100 most notable books of 2018.

The Axelrod Legacy

The Axelrod Prize and eponymous lecture honor the legacy of David Axelrod — a champion of public health and health equity in New York, who throughout his career spearheaded projects addressing wide ranging issues including environmental injustice, research on HIV/AIDS, health insurance for children, controlling exposure to secondhand smoke, and work towards eliminating ethical issues in healthcare.

After serving in multiple leadership roles within the New York State Department of Health, and holding the position of New York’s Commissioner of Health, Axelrod worked with SUNY President Vincent O'Leary to create the School of Public Health at University at Albany in 1985. This forged a unique partnership which enabled government researchers and scientists to collaborate with academic researchers and students on the frontlines of public health. Nearly 40 years later, this partnership continues to flourish, with many SPH faculty members holding full-time appointments at the New York State Department of Health and countless students interning within various sectors of the Department.

The School of Public Health honors Axelrod for this important work which demonstrates the importance of approaching public health at the intersection of academia and government.

The Axelrod Prize recipient is chosen by the dean of the School of Public Health and the Axelrod Prize Endowment Committee. During the selection process, the committee considers the alignment of the nominee's public health contributions with Axelrod's vision for collaboration between academia and government health departments, the impact of these contributions to improving public health, and the role these contributions play in reducing health disparities.