When James Tislow came to Northwest Florida State College, it was known as Okaloosa-Walton Community College. The 1988 graduate of Niceville High School had recently turned down a scholarship from Tulane University to attend the two-year college five minutes from his home and where both his mother and sister had received AA degrees. "Choosing a college that was so close to home was a fairly easy decision", Tislow said. "I was impressed by the quality of the faculty and the programs offered, but when I learned that OW was among the highest performing colleges in the state, it sealed the deal. I knew that if I did well here, I could go anywhere and compete with the best students."
Tislow's interest in science began in middle school and while he knew he wanted to pursue a career in that field, he wasn't sure in what area or exactly how to get from Point A to Point B. So, at OW, he took his English, Math, and Humanities classes and loaded the rest of his schedule with as many science courses as he could. One day, upon an announcement from Science faculty member, Ross Hamilton, James chose to attend a presentation by a representative from the Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy in Atlanta, GA. When he left the presentation, the pathway to a science career suddenly became very apparent.
Tislow immediately sent in his application to Mercer University, was interviewed and accepted to join the entering class. During his admission process, he learned that among the 115 class members, only two students held Associate Degrees; all others held a Bachelor's Degree or higher. But his two-year degree from OWCC served him well. During his years at Mercer, he was elected into the Rho Chi Pharmaceutical Honor Society, received a Merit Scholarship, the Mercer University Research Fellowship and the Carlton Henderson-TMA Fellowship, all while holding down a job as a Pharmacy Intern at Kroger Pharmacy. At the culmination of those four years of intensive study, he walked onto the stage to receive his hood and his Doctor of Pharmacy degree with Magna Cum Laude honors.
A one-year residency followed at The Medical Center in Columbus, GA where he primarily focused on critical care pharmacy and clinical research. He also focused on his new bride, the former Jennifer Clark of Crestview (also an OWCC alumna) whom he married two weeks after his college graduation.
Following completion of his residency in Columbus, Tislow worked as a clinical pharmacist and founded a clinical research company. But it didn't take long for major pharmaceutical companies to come calling and the opportunities they presented piqued his interest. He sold his research company and accepted positions with Astellas Pharma US and Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals, before settling in with Gilead Sciences where he currently serves as an Associate Director, Medical Sciences, Cardiopulmonary Therapeutics. As with other companies for which he worked, Tislow recently received national recognition by being selected for the Alvan Fisher Medical Scientist Award.
"I have been extremely blessed in my life, " Tislow said. "I graduated from a great community college that challenged me with quality programs and where I was taught by gifted instructors who mentored me and set me on my career path; I've received a superior education from a renowned Pharmacy School; enjoyed a variety of work environments; had the opportunity to travel the world in my professional career; and have a lovely wife and three great kids who support me every step of the way. I owe a great deal of credit to NWFSC and to Mr. Hamilton. His taking a personal interest in me and his introduction to Mercer set me on a career that I find very rewarding and fulfilling."