Alumna Sets Philanthropy Example for Students, Fellow Graduates

“Donations by fellow alumni impact students in so many ways. Along with benefitting from the financial gifts that contribute towards their education, students witness alumni supporting the College of Pharmacy. This offers an invaluable life lesson on the importance of giving back – a lesson that can last a lifetime.”  – Martha Cato, PharmD ‘70

Martha Cato epitomizes the spirit of philanthropy.

Raised in Louisville, Ga. and a current long-time resident of Athens, Ga., Martha Cato is committed to supporting her beloved alma mater, because of the 40+ year career she enjoyed as a result of her education. She consistently donates to the College of Pharmacy’s various programs and scholarships “…so that current students can have access to funds to ease financial burdens,” she said in a recent interview. “I also give in appreciation of the work of faculty who provided me with superior training that allowed me to enjoy financial security.”

She added, “My education in pharmacy provided me with a satisfying career, the ability to be financially secure, and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle,” she added. “I genuinely want that for others. My hope is that through philanthropic endeavors, students will be adequately prepared not just for a job, but a career in a field for which they are passionate. I encourage my fellow alumni to follow suit to honor our College and set an example to students on the importance of support for the sake of others.”

A desire to pursue a pharmacy education surfaced when Cato was young – and came about as the result of an older sibling and a famed female scientist.  She explained, “My brother is 10 years older than me, and he pursued pharmacy as a career. He was my mentor; he brought home booklets regarding the field. The study of the human body and treating illnesses with pharmaceuticals was a learning experience that appealed to me. In addition, a book on the life of Madame Curie intrigued me as a child. She was a role model of how a female could achieve success in the field of science. I realized that pharmacy provided women opportunities for advancement without major prejudices typical of many male dominated fields. The number of women in pharmacy today is proof of these opportunities.” 

Cato never considered any other pharmacy school, and she arrived at UGA to earn her BSPH in 1966. While at the College of Pharmacy, Cato was a member of Lambda Kappa Sigma sorority, serving as recording secretary. She was a clerk during season breaks and summers at Eckerd’s Drug store and Horton’s Drug Store in Athens. She also worked at the college in a secretarial role. While in school, she received a Health Care Profession scholarship and two Georgia Pharmacy Association scholarships, allowing Cato to graduate without financial debt. 

Cato was fortunate to have inspiring mentors who were uplifting in her pursuit of education – Professor Ford C. Millikan, who taught her how to manage employees; Dean Howard Ansel, who encouraged her to take a graduate level class on hospital pharmacy; and Dr. James Cooper, who worked at Athens General Hospital, now Piedmont Athens Regional as a pharmacist when she was an intern. “His knowledge and inquisitive mind provided me with an example on how to approach my career,” she said. 

And she approached her career with much success. Cato enjoyed an illustrious and prolific career that spanned the gamut of the pharmacy profession. Initially, she secured a staff pharmacist position at Athens General Hospital after passing her boards. After one year, she moved to Carrollton, Ga. and became a community pharmacist for two years.

  The allure of the Arch called her back to Athens, and in 1973, she returned to the college town for 27 years, initially to assume the role of a night shift pharmacist at St. Mary’s Hospital.  “It was pretty amazing that the hospital had 24-hour coverage in 1973,” she remembered.  “The pharmacy was one of the first ancillary departments to staff workers around the clock. At first, the night shift nurses were hesitant, as they had not had pharmacy resources available. This changed, and it was a great learning experience as a pharmacist.” In 1976, she was promoted to the role of assistant director and then to the director in 1979. While the director’s title did not change, the scope of the position evolved with the introduction of new technology and innovative procedures. During that time, the pharmacy started home IV infusion and long term care pharmacy, along with hospice care.    

“My pharmacy education provided me with a background to pursue multiple work and professional opportunities,” said Cato, who in 2001 left St. Mary’s and joined the McKesson Corporation in New Jersey in a sales position. “Working with a Fortune 500 company provided an opportunity for personal growth and developing new professional relationships,” she commented.  In 2008, she transitioned to Health Care Systems in sales and product implementation for acute care and psychiatric facilities, specifically with software for medication reconciliation. 

Her advice for new pharmacists:  “In each position, there are work requirements that have specific due dates and unexpected events that require immediate attention.  Learning flexibility is key. In addition, I had the pleasure of serving in different roles in the Georgia Pharmacy Association, the Georgia Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and the American Society of Healt- System Pharmacists, and I witnessed the impact that UGA Pharmacy faculty had with these organizations. I encourage involvement in professional organizations on many levels for many reasons, especially networking.”

Her parting words are insightful as a life lesson and philosophy for every reader. “In my retirement, I enjoy gardening. I grew up on a farm. My grandfather taught me about the trees and plants on the farm and how their growth and proliferation is always changing. Gardening mimics life – everything is constantly changing, and we must learn to accept it and move forward. Only in this way will we blossom and grow. As it relates to philanthropic support for the College, we must be the catalysts that allows the College to blossom and grow for posterity.”

You, too, can create a legacy of giving by making your annual gift today! Please contact Ryan Phillips at to learn more about annual giving opportunities at the College of Pharmacy.

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