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Tahir Hussain

Professor and head of the Department of Pharmacal Sciences
Harrison School of Pharmacy

Tahir Hussain is a new addition to the faculty of Auburn's Harrison School of Pharmacy. He is a professor as well as head of the Department of Pharmacal Sciences. Hussain's journey to the Plains started in a small village in India where electricity and running water are still scarce. He spent his younger years playing and helping on the family farm. A formal education was not necessary or encouraged, but one day, when Hussain bought an alphabet book, the book every child needed before going to school, his life changed forever. Hussain said he was "set on a path to learn." His admittance to a federal university in India was a great honor for him and his family. Hussain earned four degrees before moving to the U.S. in 1982 to work at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. He then spent 16 years at the University of Houston before coming to Auburn this summer.

1. What was it like growing up in India?

I was born and raised in a small village 50 miles north of Delhi. Despite the proximity to Delhi, my village, even to this day, hardly has any electricity and running water. I spent the early years helping my uncle on the farm, climbing trees, and playing with the other boys on the outskirts of the village - a freedom-filled life any boy could imagine. In this life, school was the last thing on anybody's mind, and for the elders, if I could finish eighth grade or high school (10th grade), that would be enough to get me a job in the military. One morning, I still remember, was different than others; I asked my mom to send me to school. She gave me 10 paise (1/10th of Rupee) and I purchased a book for six paise which was the start.

2. You attended the same university in India - Aligarh Muslin University in Aligarh - for more than a decade and earned four degrees - Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Philosophy, and a Ph.D. Why did you get so much education in chemistry and biochemistry?

The Aligarh Muslin University is a federal university, which was founded in 1875 on the Oxford and Cambridge universities model. Getting admission in Aligarh would be considered a matter of honor/prestige for the entire family and I was fortunate that I got admission and obtained all my degrees. Interestingly, Aligarh was known not only for higher education, but a place where etiquettes of life and political awareness would be an integral part of the student experiences. Chemistry and biochemistry became my favorite, not just because I liked the subjects, but because it was very difficult to get admission in these majors. I was fortunate to have that challenge achieved. I believe the degrees in chemistry/biochemistry set the stage for the rest of my scientific career, including teaching.

3. How did you get into the study of pharmacy?

Because we take medicine every day, it intrigued me to know how they work and help the human body. This led me to work in the pharmacology area and in pharmacy education. I am not a pharmacist, but have been enjoying teaching pharmacists. Pharmacy is the interface of the health care delivery system and it's important that it is properly created and taught.

4. You spent 16 years at the University of Houston, working your way up in the College of Pharmacy to associate professor with tenure. What made you leave to come to Auburn?

This is a very interesting question. Yes, I had been doing great both personally and professionally. I had received my full professorship promotion before coming to Auburn. The offer from Auburn provided me an opportunity of a different dimension - to take on new challenges, get out of my comfort zone, utilize my skills with which I have been trained with for years, and to contribute to my profession at a different level. The Auburn community and folks in the Harrison School of Pharmacy gave me a very warm welcome that has helped me in my transition.

5. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to read books on history and religions, and enjoy spending time with my family. While my four daughters are grown up, at present, my high school-aged son is the center of my attention. I enjoy watching basketball and football games with him.

Dec. 5, 2011