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LT Catherine Bobea | Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service Skip to main content

LT Catherine Bobea

June 2024 Officer Spotlight

LT Bobea is a Public Health Emergency Response Strike Team (PHERST) Military Treatment Facility (MTF) Pharmacist Officer detailed to the Department of Defense – Defense Health Agency stationed at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD). As a PHERST officer, she serves in a dual capacity providing full-time pharmacy services to expand MTF capabilities and supporting USPHS Commissioned Corps emergency response missions. At NMCSD, LT Bobea serves as a clinical pharmacist delivering patient-centered pharmaceutical care to service members, retirees, and beneficiaries. Through this service, she protects national health security by ensuring that active-duty personnel remain operational and mission ready. Additionally, LT Bobea currently serves as the Hazardous Drug Officer, overseeing implementation of USP 800 Standards (standards for safe handling of hazardous drugs to minimize the risk of exposure to healthcare personnel, patients, and the environment) across the Command. Other collateral duties include participation on the Investigational Review Board and Credentialing Review Committee, where she serves as a subject matter expert.

LT Bobea grew up in Queens, New York, and attended the City University of New York, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and, later, a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. She obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy in Hartford, Connecticut, and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree. LT Bobea is a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist (BCPS) with practice experience in the management of anemia in chronic kidney disease, outpatient pharmacy services, emergency medicine, and immunizations.

LT Bobea was first exposed to the USPHS Commissioned Corps during her last year in pharmacy school in 2016, where she completed a rotation at the Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital, in Crow Agency, Montana. It was the first time she had the honor of visiting an American Indian reservation and where she met CDR James “Garrett” Sims and other U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) officers who were practicing at the top of their licenses, providing comprehensive disease management services for a special underserved population, and truly making a difference. “I observed how the pharmacy officers were deeply engrained within the community and highly sought out by patients for their accessibility, knowledge, and expertise. They clearly embodied the USPHS core values – leadership, integrity, service, and excellence – they were living proof of the purpose I was seeking, and I wanted to be like them! That experience completely changed my life and started me on a path that led me to becoming a commissioned USPHS officer five years later.”

LT Bobea commissioned into the United States Public Health Service in April 2021 and was stationed at Gallup Indian Medical Center (GIMC), an Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital and Level III Trauma Center located in rural New Mexico. Prior to joining the USPHS Commissioned Corps, she obtained a position within the federal healthcare system, working at GIMC for over 3 years. LT Bobea began her “pharmacy career” 10 years prior as a cashier in community pharmacy where she developed a love for patients and customer service. “When I think back to why I originally wanted to become a pharmacist and subsequently a Public Health Service officer, the commonality is that I wanted to help people be well.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gallup, New Mexico, ranked 5th highest in number of coronavirus cases per capita in the United States before vaccines and other treatments were available. As a Public Health Service officer assigned to IHS, LT Bobea was mission critical and deployed in place at GIMC alongside Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT), National Guard, and Army personnel, where she spent the first nine months responding to the pandemic by providing bedside care to critically ill patients in the emergency room. It was a difficult time for many people across the world and the pandemic brought to the forefront how health inequity and social determinants of health create additional challenges for underserved communities across the Nation. “Serving within the IHS, I was reminded day in and day out that as a Public Health Service officer, I made a commitment to improving the lives of people, especially during a public health emergency.” The response to that mission and her contributions to helping overcome surges became more meaningful when vaccines became available and the focus shifted to LT Bobea leading the vaccination operations at GIMC.

In 2021, LT Bobea was selected as GIMC Immunization Coordinator and tasked with developing and implementing a COVID-19 vaccination program comprised of on-campus and off-site mass vaccination components to mitigate the spread of vaccine-preventable disease complications, lessening morbidity, and decreasing mortality across the Navajo Nation and beyond. In this role, LT Bobea oversaw and directed on-campus clinic days and over 100 mass vaccination events, leading multi-agency teams, volunteers, Team Rubicon, U.S. Marshals, and higher-ranking U.S. Public Health Service officers from the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources Services Administration, Indian Health Service, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services deployed to Gallup Indian Medical Center. Under her leadership, more than 46,000 vaccines were administered totaling over $21M
in reimbursements and collections. “It was very humbling to care for a community that was severely impacted by the pandemic while together we faced numerous barriers and lack of resources, and to see so many of our patients at the vaccination events was an important lesson in resilience and what it means to have hope for a better future. It’s something that I carry with me.”

In 2022, LT Bobea again stepped into an important leadership role as the Acting Assistant Chief of Pharmacy (O-6 Billet) and COVID-19/Influenza/Monkeypox Vaccine Liaison responsible for procurement and management of COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics inventory valued at over $4M. She championed and prioritized expansion of access to immunization services at GIMC through integration of COVID-19 vaccines into daily workflow operations of primary care clinics, inpatient wards, pharmacist-led clinics, and emergency rooms. Increasing access to care directly impacted 20,000 beneficiaries in less than one year. LT Bobea is grateful for the opportunity to take on leadership experiences that have challenged her and helped her to grow in her young career. “As a USPHS officer you have endless opportunities to create your own path and lead in a variety of capacities – always be ready and lead from the front.”

In looking towards the future, LT Bobea encourages others to consider pursuing a life of public service where you can use your skills, qualities, and best attributes to positively contribute to all those around you. She shares the following thoughts: “As you begin your public servant career, keep an open mind as every day can be an adventure and a new opportunity to make a difference.” Be present, engaged, and attuned to the needs of the community you are serving. You will gain a new perspective, and this will aid you in providing culturally sensitive care to all patients.”  Lastly, “Remember that you’re never alone. We serve together and what we choose to do and how we take care of one another today will have an impact for generations tomorrow.”

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