December 1, 2023
Tiffany Porter, University of Michigan College of Pharmacy PharmD, Olympian, and Mom

When you talk to upbeat, outgoing Tiffany Ofili Porter, PharmD ’12, you quickly get the feeling nothing can slow her down.


Small wonder: for the last decade, the Olympic track star has hurdled a lot of challenges as she balanced her career as a professional athlete, a job she loves as a community pharmacist, and as a mom. 


That would be a lot to juggle for most people, but after retiring from her sport in 2022, Tiffany simply added more roles and interests. Today, she is a real estate investor, a track enthusiast, a fitness advocate, a sports broadcaster, and a content creator who blogs about life after sport and many other topics. 


She balances many roles and doesn’t even realize just how many hats she is wearing until we sat down to talk about it, but in conversation, she gives the sense that juggling all of this is absolutely ordinary. “You can be a lot of things at once - and - be passionate about a lot of things at once,” she says simply. 


Clearing high bars early

Running was initially just a childhood game. “I would race my two older brothers in the street in Ypsilanti where I grew up,” she told Citly Lifestyle magazine. “I was always just a little quicker than other people.”


She kept running, excelling on her middle school and high school track team, but as she began notching impressive personal records, she was also thinking ahead to a career of service to others. “From a very early age, I knew I wanted to help people and I’m I’m a math and science person, so I knew healthcare was my path,” she recalls.


“When you’re the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, your family automatically says you have to be a doctor or a lawyer,” she recalls with a laugh. Her father and several other family members were physicians, and with that first-hand exposure, she saw early on that the all-consuming profession of a physician wasn’t for her. While still in high school, she researched her healthcare career options and discovered the many paths that pharmacy could offer, including holding true to her service orientation while still allowing her to pursue her athletic dreams. 


“I was that student.”

Focused and goal-oriented, Tiffany mapped out a career plan that left room for sports. She was recruited out of high school to run hurdles for the University of Michigan. Practically next door in Ann Arbor, the U-M was familiar — and happened to have a top-ranked pharmacy school in the nation.


Before she even started college, she reached out to Valeneer Perry, the dean of admissions at the College of Pharmacy, seeking advice on prerequisites and class schedules to make sure she would be on track to enter the doctor of pharmacy program three years later.  “Yes guys, I was that high schooler,” she admits. 


On the track at U-M, Tiffany was unstoppable. In her extraordinary collegiate track career, she was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, five-time national champion, All-American, and nine-time Big Ten Conference champion. While achieving all this, she managed to complete her undergraduate requirements in just three years.


Entering the College of Pharmacy in 2009 with a year of NCAA eligibility remaining, Tiffany continued to compete through her first year in the PharmD program. “On weekends, I’d go to competitions and during the week, I was lucky to have lots of really helpful study partners and professors who accommodated the rigors of a PharmD program and the intensity of my athletics schedule,” she recalls. 


“At this point, I was 20 and been a student-athlete my whole life, so I was aware of the multiple demands. But choosing this path required me to give my all in both academics and athletics at the same time and the intensity and demands continually increased. I definitely had to be able to juggle and I leaned heavily on the discipline that I learned as an athlete and translated it directly to what it took to be successful in the College of Pharmacy.”


Pursing the Olympics and a career in pharmacy

A year into the PharmD program, Tiffany turned pro and kept competing in 60-meter and 100-meter hurdles — all the way to her first Olympic games in 2012. On top of a demanding training schedule and studies, Tiffany was named a Leadership Scholar. This program provides extracurricular opportunities to promote independent, analytical thinking and the personal growth needed to be a leader in the profession.


She had no doubt where her career would lead her. “I knew from my P1 year that I wanted to go into community pharmacy. I love the direct patient interaction and I love people,” she says. “There’s always going to be a need for pharmacists who are passionate about their role.” She also loves the fast-paced blend of many responsibilities associated with the role.


She prides herself on interactions with patients, counseling them even if they don’t ask questions, and making sure they understand what to expect from their medications. “It’s always rewarding, especially when I see the positive comments in patient surveys.”


Tiffany opted for community pharmacy because it offered both stability and flexibility to blend career, family, competition, and more. “Having the ability to work part-time allowed me to be a professional athlete for more than twelve years and explore being a real estate investor as well as an entrepreneur. Track changed my life and I am grateful that pharmacy gave me the space to tap into my other interests.


“If I could redo college and had the choice to choose another profession, I would still choose to be a pharmacist,” she writes in a blog on how she chose her profession. “Many of my patients comment on how my passion for pharmacy is displayed in how I interact with them. Those are the best compliments.”


Now a happily married mother of two, she just retired from competition in 2022 after a 12-year professional career with a string of impressive accolades. She competed for Great Britain in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Olympic games, winning four world championships and several European championship medals along the way.  She still holds the British National record in the 60-meter hurdles.


For her achievements over her long career in sports, she was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletics Hall of Honor on Nov. 3, 2023, amongst the other 2023 inductees. “It was a special thrill to be honored at Michigan Stadium in front of 110,000 cheering fans during the Purdue game.”


Credit to her team

She excelled in an individual sport, but Tiffany credits many supporters on her team for her success. “Dean Perry was absolutely instrumental. Without her guidance and ‘tough love,’ I know my path to pharmacy wouldn’t have been as smooth as it was. May she rest in peace,” Tiffany recalls.


She especially remembers Dean Nancy Mason, “She was amazing. She was my investigations partner, and she was always just present to help me when I had a question or needed a little guidance on my work.”


Tiffany also credits Peter Niedbala, who headed up the Leadership Scholars Program, for showing her that “leadership can be integral to all aspects of your life, not just your career,” she says.


Tiffany hopes her example of succeeding simultaneously on the track and in her career serves as an example for others with multiple interests and high aims. “I think sometimes we get blocked into one identity. It’s OK to be multifaceted,” she notes. 


“The benefit of a good team is essential,” she adds. “I surrounded myself with a great coach and deans, a great sports psychologist, and the right study partners.” She is humbled by the support of a strong team and wants to give back to the next generation of students who are trying to figure out how to achieve big goals, balance competing roles, or adjust to life after sports.


Like a good coach herself, she advises, “If you have a goal, with hard work and a good team around you, you can make it happen.”