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UTHSC News: Graduate Health Sciences Alumnus Strives to Help Students Decades After Graduating


Joseph Tarnowski, PhD, has led a successful career since graduating from the College of Graduate Health Sciences in 1979. Now, as he prepares to retire in November, he is dedicated to helping students achieve their own success.

Dr. Tarnowski’s decades-long career in the biopharmaceutical industry began essentially as a back-up plan. Before attending UTHSC, where he received his doctoral degree in biochemistry, he aspired to become a medical doctor, inspired by his family doctor whom he admired. But, while completing his undergraduate degree at Southeast Missouri State University, Dr. Tarnowski met his future mentor, Edsel T. Bucovaz, PhD, a biochemistry professor who was on a recruiting trip for UTHSC.

“Dr. Bucovaz was speaking about the graduate programs, and I said, you know, that’s maybe something I should do, because at that time the odds of getting into medical school were not in my favor,” Dr. Tarnowski said. “I was really inspired by hearing Dr. Bucovaz speak, and I wanted to do my graduate work as part of an integrated biomedical sciences program, so I chose the (then) University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences over others I was considering.”

Dr. Tarnowski received a teaching fellowship from the university, which paid his tuition and gave him a small stipend for teaching classes while he was there. After graduating, he became a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry at Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey, where he learned how the pharmaceutical industrialization process worked. Seeing how medicines are developed from a concept to a drug solidified Dr. Tarnowski’s decision to work in the industry rather than being an academician.

Read more at our UTHSC news site.