Detroit Pistons, Priority Health highlight leadership in final “Girls Dream Big” webinar

Vince Ellis
Special for Pistons.com

Time Magazine has named her one of 100 influential people in the world.

USA Today recognizes her as an important woman of the century.

That is just a small hint of the praise Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha has received since 2014 when her research brought attention to dangerous lead levels in the Flint water supply, a public health crisis that received national notoriety.

Hanna-Attisha became an advocate for the children of Flint. The subject matter prevents self-congratulatory thoughts, and those kids keep her grounded.

“That’s what keeps me going, that’s’ what enables me to overcome my obstacles,” Hanna-Attisha told a group of young women Thursday afternoon via Zoom. “It’s not so much about me; it’s about them and I’ll do anything on their behalf.”

To recognize Women’s History Month, the Pistons and Priority Health sponsored “Girls Dream Big,” a series of webinars held throughout March.

Hosted by Fox Sports Detroit reporter Brooke Fletcher, Hanna-Attisha was joined on the panel by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, CEO Shauna Griffiths, D.C. United president Danita Johnson, AAA-The Auto Club Group executive vice president Jeanine Raquet and Priority Heath vice president Diane Wolfenden.

This past month, ESPN personality Sarah Spain, U.S Olympian Colleen Quigley, Bleacher Report journalist Taylor Rooks and actress and Detroit native Deborah Joy Winans were among the successful women to share words of wisdom with area youth. Topics included sports and entertainment and business. A brief presentation from a local, woman-owned small business opened each webinar.

Thursday’s panel featured women delivering a message of empowerment, women who have become leaders by successfully navigating male-dominated fields.

All panelists told origin stories where they had to work hard to achieve their current success.

Nessel, an accomplished civil rights attorney, recalled when she first decided to run for state office when traditional Democratic Party constituents backed her opponent.

“I just said I was going to outwork everyone,” Nessel said. “Maybe upper echelon folks within the party don’t want me there, but I’m going to make sure the voters do.

“That’s what we as women have to do. We have to be twice as good as our male counterpart to get the positions that we get.”

Griffiths, a former Michigan basketball player, started her company during the pandemic.

Wolfenden started working in the healthcare industry right of high school, attended college at night and worked her way up the corporate ladder.

Raquet recalled more than 30 years of being in leadership positions.

Johnson, who once worked for the Tulsa Shock after the WNBA franchise relocated from Detroit, is only third woman and first African American to hold her position in the Major Soccer League.

This was the third time the Pistons have sponsored the “Girls Dream Big” event. Last year’s event was first postponed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the NBA regular season. When held in the offseason, the circumstances of stay-at-home orders allowed Pistons executives to broaden the scope of panelists. Former Detroit Shock star Deanna Nolan, media personality and Detroit native Jemele Hill and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson were among the guest panelists last year.

The event was one of several the Pistons have held this month to recognize women. Earlier this month, the Pistons, the NBA, McDonald’s and the Detroit chapter of WISE, a professional organization for women in the business of sports and events, co-sponsored a mentoring session for high schoolers and collegians to recognize International Women’s Day.

It’s all about developing future leaders.

Hanna-Attisha recalled with a laugh when she was called loud and bossy as a child.

“Those are my strengths, those are my superpowers and I held on to those powers as a leader to use my voice and power to advocate for every kid, no matter where they are, has the best chance of succeeding,” she said.