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Hana Taylor Schlitz, the soon-to-be youngest graduate in the history of Texas Woman’s University (TWU) at 16, is ushering a new wave of champions in the fight against alarming tuberculosis rates.

In a gratitude post shared to LinkedIn on May 2, the teen trailblazer confirmed that she would break her older sister’s 2019 “HERstoric record” as the youngest TWU grad at 16. The incredible feat marks an ambitious agenda driven by Hana’s tumultuous birth and her mother’s untimely passing from tuberculosis.

“I hope my story inspires others to hashtagBoldlyGo in pursuing their passions, no matter the challenges they face. Thank you for following my journey!” Hana wrote in the post.

Ahead of her graduation, Hana opened up about her humble beginnings in a small village in Ethiopia, where she spent the first and last time with her biological mother.

The soon-to-be graduate revealed that her mother died shortly after succumbing to tuberculosis, one of the top ten causes of global deaths in 2020. Later, the underweight, 10-month-old baby girl was nursed back to health from her own case of tuberculosis, thanks to her adopted parents, Dr. Myiesha Taylor and her husband, William Schlitz.

“Reflecting on what my early graduation symbolizes, I feel a profound connection to this achievement,” Hana penned in an essay for Newsweek. “At the same time, I reflect on what my early graduation symbolizes. It is not just an academic achievement; it is a call to action. It is a plea to the global community to recommit to the fight against TB, to not only save lives but to unlock the potential of millions more who could change the world.”

The World Health Organization found that 1.5 million people die from tuberculosis each year.

Triggered by bacteria, tuberculosis affects the lungs and is generally spread through the air when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit. It is a preventable and curable disease.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the TB case rate in the United States to be 8 times higher for non-Hispanic Black or African American persons than for non-Hispanic White persons in 2021.

“My recovery from tuberculosis (TB) was not just a testament to medical science but also to the strength of the public health infrastructure in the United States that supported my treatment,” Hana explained in the essay. “The trajectory of my life shifted dramatically due to the medical care and opportunities I received, a stark contrast to the fate my biological mother met.”

This fall, Hana plans to dive deep into graduate studies with the intention of bringing awareness to rising TB rates in the United States and abroad.

“I am driven by the mission to ensure that every child has access to the same level of care that enabled me to survive and thrive,” the 16-year-old stated in the essay. “This commitment influenced my decision to pursue a PhD in sociology, a field that provides a lens to examine the complex interactions between society, health, and disease—interactions I have personally lived through.”

In the celebratory spirit of Hana’s graduation in May 2024, big up to the Schlitz family of academic scholars and innovators!

In addition to Hana’s upcoming herstoric victory, the Schlitz family is also shattering barriers. Her older sister, Haley Taylor Schlitz, 21, is the youngest graduate in U.S. history to obtain a law degree, and her older brother, Ian, earned his PhD at just 17 years old.

Boldly Go, Hana!

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