17-Year-Old CEO Is Now A Doctor After Successfully Defending Her Dissertation

17-Year-Old CEO Is Now A Doctor After Successfully Defending Her Dissertation

At only 17, Dr. Dorothy Tillman is out here breaking glass ceilings!

Dorothy “Jeanius” Tillman, the nationally recognized founder and CEO from Chicago’s South Side, is reintroducing herself as a doctor—at age 17.

The teen dynamo successfully defended her dissertation to obtain a Doctor of Behavioral Health (DBH) at Arizona State University’s ASU College of Health Solutions. She is now Dr. Dorothy Jean Tillman and will participate in commencement next May in Phoenix.

In her research, Tillman “focused on the impact of implementing an outreach and education program aimed at reducing the stigma associated with using campus mental health services among college-aged students,” according to a press release.

Tillman is investing in the next generation of leaders through her Dorothy Jeanius STEAM Leadership Institute. She plans to utilize her environmental and sustainable science expertise to bring more attention to mental and behavioral health services within educational institutions and community-based organizations.

In doing so, the team of STEAM-ulators is creating pathways for more underrepresented groups to enter and succeed in STEAM-related fields despite the education landscape. (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math.)


“Counselors in a lot of schools aren’t really up to par with what those students need or even if the counselors are very competent, there’s way too many students to help each one,” Tillman previously told BLACK ENTERPRISE. 

Over the years, schools have been facing a surge in demand for care that far outpaces capacity, which presents a challenge to taking a multifaceted approach to supporting students. Experts have called out the lack of school funding. Counseling centers are also overwhelmed as the majority of college students today “meet the criteria for at least one mental health problem.”

Students of color, who experience the same rates of mental health issues across all races, are less likely to get treatment.

On the other hand, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found nearly 3 in 5 teen girls experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021. This rate doubles the boys’ experiences and is an almost 60% increase over the highest level recorded in the past decade. In response, the CDC called on schools to take action to prevent and reduce the negative impact of violence and other trauma on teens. The data determined that school-based activities “can make a profound difference in the lives of teens with a relatively small infusion of support to schools.”

Tillman, who earned her master’s degree at 14, has had her success empowered by her number one “champion,” her mother, Jimalita Tillman, and a foundation of “good leaders and people.”

Tillman’s higher education journey began at age 10 when she enrolled at the College of Lake County in Grayes Lake, Illinois, majoring in psychology. In 2016, she completed her associate’s degree and earned a bachelor of science in humanities from Excelsior College in 2018. At 14 years old, she attained a master of science degree from Unity College in Unity, Maine, becoming the country’s youngest environmental and sustainable scientist. 

The award-winning teen prodigy was honored on the 2021 BLACK ENTERPRISE 40 Under 40-Tech list and was a panelist at the 40 Under 40 Virtual Summit.

“Having leaders who want to lead you, who want to teach you is extremely important. There are a lot of teachers who are getting treated unfairly, are resenting their jobs, and they’re resenting their students. That’s not OK because that creates resentment from the students and then its just an endless cycle,” Tillman explained.