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News | Jan. 12, 2024

Two different roads, one final destination for pair of NMCSD pharmacists

As Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) celebrates National Pharmacist Day, 12 Jan., we present two pharmacists whose parallel trajectory lead them to serving in one of the hospital’s most relied upon departments by beneficiaries who expect a precision and expediency that leaves zero room for complacency.

“The path I took to get to NMCSD started with a yearning desire to serve our nation within the capacity of a medical profession,” said Lt. Andre Burnett, NMCSD pharmacist. “Coming from a family with a deep-rooted connection to the military consisting of three generations, the celebrated expectation that my family had — and most importantly that I had for myself — was prescribed in the journey that has brought me to this coveted assignment at NMCSD.”

Burnett, a native from Birmingham, Alabama, embarked on an extended journey to obtain his direct commission in the U.S. Navy — a total of seven years.

“Even before graduating from Hampton University’s School of Pharmacy I was applying for a direct commission. The seven year wait did not detract me; however, I needed to sustain myself and became a pharmacist with Rite-Aid, where they provided me an exposure to a broad customer constituency — one that showcased to me some of the most disenfranchised members imaginable. Therefore, compassionate caring in the execution of your duties was something that was integral to getting you through the day.”

As Burnett was applying to colleges, he ultimately attended Stillman College, a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) institution, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Lt. Catherine Bobea, United States Public Health Service (USPHS) pharmacist, was attending Queens College, a public college in the borough of Queens, New York City, and part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. However, Bobea had no intentions of becoming a pharmacist.

“As a child I had aspirations of becoming a classically trained singer,” says Bobea, a Queens native. “Despite attending the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, it was my part time job at Rite-Aid that propelled me to the customer service aspect of healthcare. With the support of my Rite-Aid supervisors and the potential that they saw, I went back to school to obtain a B.A. in Biology. This step enabled me to attend pharmacy school.”

During pharmacy school, Bobea was sent to the Crow Agency Indian Reservation in Montana, where she had her first exposure to the USPHS.

“Coming from Queens I thought I’ve seen it all, but it wasn’t until serving at Crow Agency that the significance of the smallest acts of compassionate care became apparent to me. There is no such thing as too small of a caring act,” expresses Bobea. “Once I made the connection of the Public Health Service with its mission and the public that they serve, it was a natural progression for me to want to become a Public Health Service servant.”

With a unique collaboration between the USPHS and the Defense Health Agency through the former’s Public Health Emergency Response Strike Team (PHERST), Bobea, and four other USPHS clinicians at NMCSD, provide a valued service to NMCSD by augmenting the command’s ability to render patient care.

“Here at NMCSD I am able to uphold the Public Health Service’s mission to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the Nation,” explains Bobea. “Being part of the PHERST team, we too must be ready to deploy within a moment’s notice and for us that means being ready within 24 hours. So I truly understand and value the demands placed on the fleet and our military medicine brethren.”

The paths of these two pharmacists will ultimately diverge, but their commitment to serve will remain consistent.

“The connection forged between my fellow pharmacists and technicians is not just clinical, but rather it is rooted in a shared commitment to those who have dedicated themselves to the service of our nation,” says Burnett. “For us, all roads lead to improving the lives and wellbeing of our Nation’s heroes.”

NMCSD continuously seeks professional civilian talent, not just limited to health care providers and administrative support. For anyone seeking a federal job, visit USAJobs at - the Federal Government's official employment site.

The mission of NMCSD is to prepare service members to deploy in support of operational forces, deliver high quality health care services, and shape the future of military medicine through education, training, and research. NMCSD employs more than 6,000 active-duty military personnel, civilians and contractors in southern California to provide patients with world-class care anytime, anywhere.
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