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16-year-old nursing student makes history at ASU

Elliana Tenenbaum graduates with Bachelor of Science in nursing

ASU BSN graduate Elliana Tenenbaum smiling and holding a yellow rose in an auditorium.

Elliana Tenenbaum makes history at Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation for being the youngest nursing graduate in 66 years. Photo courtesy Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

August 14, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2023 year in review.

In the '80s there was Dougie Howser, M.D. In 2021, Disney created Dr. Kamealoha, M.D., about a genius 16-year-old doctor in Hawaii. Now, Hollywood has another storyline they can run with.

Arizona State University has produced what could be the youngest nurse in America at age 16.

Her name is Elliana Tenenbaum, and she hails from Thousand Oaks, California. She recently completed an accelerated nursing program and earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The program itself took 16 months to complete with no shortage of hard work, clinical simulations and hands-on experience; the same as one would expect from a typical four-year degree nursing program, but Tenenbaum is anything but your typical student. She breezed through high school by doubling up on college courses and obtaining her diploma in a year-and-a-half, thanks to the help of her devoted school counselors who guided her every step of the way, says her mother, Maya Tenenbaum, who herself holds a PhD.

Maya said that Elliana’s dream was to become the youngest nurse in America, and just like everything else she set her mind to, “She executed her plan.”

Maya credits ASU’s “forward-thinking program” for allowing Elliana and others with diverse backgrounds, both young and old, to make their dreams come true.

“We live in an ageist society, and she has proven that age really is nothing but a number,” she said.

From a very young age, Elliana showed interest in the medical field. Her father, an MD, encouraged her to explore that curiosity by allowing her to give him a shot of B12 one day, and the rest is history.

Elliana and about 60 other nursing graduates were recognized for completing their BSN at a summer celebration ceremony at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus on Aug. 10.

ASU BSN graduate Elliana Tenenbaum posing for a group photo with members of her family.

Tenenbaum's family was present at her graduation ceremony to celebrate with her. Photo by Amanda Goodman/ASU

"Our program at Edson College is quite rigorous in order to adequately prepare future nurses for the workforce," said Judith Karshmer, dean of the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. "(Elliana's) ability to handle the coursework and clinical experiences at such a young age is extraordinary and truly sets her apart. I’m just glad she picked us to earn her BSN and can’t wait to see all that she accomplishes in the future.” 

Elliana is moving at full speed toward that future.

Since ASU News last caught up with her in July 2022, she has earned her learner's permit to drive and will be working on getting her official driver's license so she can secure her first nursing job while she's back home for a few months. After that, she's off to Miami for her next collegiate adventure: earninng a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

“It’s incredible. I can’t even fathom accomplishing what she has accomplished at her age," said Natalie Bowen, Edson College clinical assistant professor. "It just speaks volumes to her maturity and drive because she’s up there with the top of her class.

“I would be her patient any day. I’m so excited for her future."

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