Alumni Highlight: John Tomayko Makes Health His Business
by John Conroy
In the late ’70s, John “Jack” Tomayko was coaching college football, studying business administration, and working as a graduate assistant while earning his master’s degree. He heard about the new PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh that focused on administration in health and physical education. The program appealed to him because it offered flexibility and opportunities to have a diverse experience throughout the University, including studying in Trees Hall as well as interacting with students in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Nursing through his coursework. He decided to apply. “What was nice about some of these classes is that they were attended by a wide range of professional people in other fields,” Tomayko says.
While earning his PhD, he was placed at Point Park University as a graduate assistant and ran its health, fitness, recreation, and health services programs, staying on for a year as assistant dean of student development. He also was involved in a business called HealthWorks, Inc., that he developed with other Pitt graduate students and that focused on education and consulting around health and wellness, including organizing the educational programming for the first Pittsburgh Marathon.
A moment that truly pointed Tomayko toward his true career path was when he was hired as a consultant at UPMC Shadyside to develop a center that combined lifestyle fitness and cardiac rehabilitation. It never came to fruition due to a change in administration.
“They made a decision not to make a decision,” Tomayko says. “From that moment, I decided I was not going to put myself in that situation again. I was going to lead my own professional life. It stimulated me to take a risk.”
In 1985, he took that stimulation and cofounded the company Cardiac Fitness, Inc., which developed and managed cardiac centers. The company eventually became the much broader company MAIN Medical, Inc., in the 1990s and evolved to include mobile diagnostic services; freestanding radiology centers; and nuclear pharmacies, which focus on the preparation of radioactive materials used to diagnose and treat specific diseases
Then, in 2004, Tomayko made an offer to buy out his partners and started his own firm, the Tomayko Group (TTG), a collection of companies that offer diagnostic imaging services, clinical staffing, pharmaceutical products, and corporate wellness programs. TTG’s current focus is the mid-Atlantic region.
Tomayko also has stayed involved with the School of Education, recently underwriting research by Assistant Professor Bethany Barone Gibbs related to getting deskbound employees to be more active. The school also honored him with its 2016 Departmental Alumni Award from the Department of Health and Physical Activity during the annual Alumni Awards in April.
Over the past 30 years, Tomayko has been involved in various areas of entrepreneurship as a result of starting and running a business. So what has he enjoyed the most? “I’ve grown to like the deal-making side of it and looking for new business opportunities,” he says.
And when asked if there’s a particular thing of which he’s most proud, Tomayko says, “Getting my company to not only be financially successful but also be recognized by the Pittsburgh Business Times as one of the best places to work and the region’s healthiest employer. Looking back, I would say Pitt was a life-changing experience for me, as I learned that maturity has a lot to do with education. You really need to be prepared, and I was not, so when I got into Pitt, it really all clicked for me. I think it was the most rewarding time of my life, in a way. I bought a backpack and sold my car and TV set. I was 100 percent in, and it gave me such a really good foundation. It motivated me to do something that I am proud of.”