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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2023

METC Pharmacy Training Lab named in honor of late program director

By Lisa Braun Medical Education Training Campus Public Affairs

The Pharmacy Technician program at the Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston officially named its outpatient pharmacy training laboratory as the Catoe Laboratory during a ceremony Dec. 8, in honor of Air Force Col. John Catoe, METC’s second pharmacy program director, who unexpectedly passed away last year.

Catoe, who had a distinguished 22-year career as a pharmacy officer, was one of the original METC pharmacy program team members when he arrived in 2010.

He had the dual responsibility of helping to build the METC pharmacy course while also getting the Air Force’s Biomedical Officer Management Orientation (BOMO) course set up after it moved from Shephard Air Force Base to JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. Catoe served as an instructor for both courses, then as the Air Force service lead for pharmacy training before stepping into the program director position.

Among those attending the ceremony were Catoe’s family: his wife Maggie and children Will and Ellie; representatives from the Air Force pharmacy community and 502nd Air Base Wing; Col. Michael Blowers, 59th Training Group commander; friends and colleagues Catoe knew throughout his career; as well as former and current pharmacy program staff members.

Col. David Walmsley, METC commandant and Air Force pharmacist, who served as presiding officer, had worked with Catoe on the METC pharmacy team. After welcoming guests, Walmsley spoke about Catoe’s legacy in shaping future pharmacy technicians.

“What he and his team did was shape the practice of pharmacy across the Department of Defense for the next 10 to 15 years, and we’re seeing that now,” Walmsley said.
“All those students he led who graduated went off to the military treatment facilities and to the operational forces, and they shaped how pharmacy was delivered. But he didn’t just shape pharmacy technicians. He also developed Biomedical Science Corps officers into the leaders of today. His impact on military healthcare was truly immense.”

Retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Lynch was the pharmacy program’s first program director and worked closely with Catoe to bring the program to full operational capability. Lynch spoke fondly of his years-long friendship with Catoe and presented a video depicting photos highlighting his military career and family life.

“I hope the video kind of sums it up. The saying goes ‘a photo is worth a thousand words’ and there are thousands of words to say about John Catoe,” Lynch said. “His leadership was steadfast in everything he did. I knew every morning when I came in here no matter what was going on, and it was challenging starting this place up 13 years ago, I knew I could count on John to give me a smile and ask me how I’m doing. It was never about him; it was about whoever he was talking to. It makes so much sense that we should be dedicating this pharmacy lab to John.”

Prior to cutting the ribbon and unveiling the plaque leading to the outpatient pharmacy training laboratory, now named the Catoe Lab, Maggie Catoe thanked all those involved in making the dedication to her husband a reality.

“I cannot express our thanks enough to all of you,” she said. “You know, this is not what he would have wanted for himself in any way, shape, or form. He felt leadership is the chance to not tell people what to do but ask people what he could do for them, and he lived it every day. He would be floored at the recognition of just being John Catoe. That’s who he was.”

Catoe received his pharmacy doctorate at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster in 2000 and completed a residency in pharmacy practice at Wilford Hall Medical Center at JBSA-Lackland in 2005. His first assignment as a captain in the Air Force was in the pharmacy at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, followed by tours in Lajes Field, Azores; JBSA-Lackland; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; JBSA-Fort Sam Houston; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; and Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. In his final assignment, he served as the 88th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Commander, also at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The METC Pharmacy Technician program trains Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard students on the major disciplines of pharmacy operations to include administration and supply, outpatient pharmacy operations, inpatient pharmacy operations, human anatomy and physiology, therapeutics, basic pharmaceutical calculations, advanced pharmacy practice.

The program is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Graduates of this program take the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) to qualify for the designation, Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).