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CAPT Matt Dooris, CIH, CSP, CPH, MSPH. (Photo courtesy of Dooris)

Captain Matthew Dooris’ career in the Coast Guard shaped by public health

Originally from Brooksville, Fla., USF College of Public Health (COPH) alum Matthew Dooris grew up in a family that valued education and public health. 

While his father was a professor at St. Leo University for 30 years, it was Dooris’ mother, also a USF alum, who sparked his interest in public health. She worked as an environmental scientist and adjunct professor at St. Leo and provided Dooris a copy of the book “Microbe Hunters,” by Paul de Kruif, after Dooris showed a fascination in contagious diseases in high school. 

When it came time to pursue a graduate degree in public health, Dooris, who was stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, decided with his wife to stay close. 

a man in military training

Dooris, pictured in the foreground holding a Type 1 Sound Level Meter, collecting  baseline area sampling for lead, beryllium, and sound pressure levels for U.S. Coast Guard armed law enforcement officers during live fire at a remote outdoor range in Southern California.  As Dooris walked he visually inspected the sampling pumps to make sure they did not fall off while those in the background were shooting at their targets.  (Photo courtesy of Dooris)

“I researched several industrial hygiene programs and found that the University of South Florida offered a reputable, ABET-accredited MSPH degree program,” Dooris said.  “The fact that my mother had attended USF contributed to my decision to attend as well.”

Dooris said one of his biggest mentors during his time at the COPH was the late Dr. Steve Mlynarek.  

“He was my advocate, pushing me to pursue courses and opportunities I would not have pursued otherwise,” Dooris said. “I recently learned of his passing and am deeply saddened. I will miss Dr. Mlynarek and am forever in his debt. As any professor knows, their legacy lives on with their students.”

Following graduation from the COPH in 2011 with his MSPH in occupational exposure science (formerly known as the industrial hygiene program), Dooris assumed his new duties as the safety and environmental health officer in Los Angeles.  During his four-year tour, Dooris said he felt incredibly well-prepared.

4 people standing in snow dry suits

Dooris, pictured 2nd from the left, at Ice Rescue School in Saginaw Bay, Michigan, wearing a dry-suit. (Photo courtesy of Dooris)

“Even though I no longer perform industrial hygiene work full-time, I still leverage my USF education,” Dooris remarked. “The industrial hygiene program at USF provided me with all the knowledge, hands-on experience and resources I needed to be successful in a public safety organization with personnel conducting some of the most dangerous work in the world.”  

Presently, Dooris serves as a captain (O6) in the Ninth District Prevention Division Chief in the U.S. Coast Guard. He just recently earned his Certification as a Protection Professional was also awarded his third Meritorious Service Medal by the U.S. Coast Guard in July 2022. 

Dooris said this was awarded for establishing a cyber security procedure to assess risk and prevent and respond to cyber incidents, safeguarding $235 billion in commerce across six Mid-Atlantic states and the Washington, D.C., area.  

military man being recognized by wife and kids

Dooris, pictured center being promoted to the rank of Captain (O6) on July 1, 2022, in Portsmouth, Virginia.   He received the rare honor of being selected for reorder / expedited promotion by the U.S. Coast Guard for high-performance.   Also pictured, is his wife, Laura, youngest son, Asher, and oldest son, Matthew, who is changing out his shoulder boards (O5 to O6). (Photo courtesy of Dooris)

“During my career, I responded to discharges of petrochemical products and other hazardous materials, including anhydrous ammonia, benzene, sulfuric acid and other substances,” he recounted. “I have dealt with lead ingots and dust in vessels, whole-body vibration on helicopters, asbestos in insulation, mercury in decommissioned lighthouses, bedbugs and scabies outbreaks, rats, escape of sewer gases, metal-containing welding fumes, noxious gases and vapors from vessel fires, exposures to frigid temperatures during ice rescue and icebreaking operations and a lot more.” 

Dooris said he also participated in responses to several hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and supported operations at the Southwest border where the incidence of communicable diseases were on the rise. 

During his time serving, Dooris said he was involved in multiple missions. But what he said he is most proud of is that during his time as a search-and-rescue mission coordinator, he was able to save or assist in saving 356 lives with his team over a two-year period in life-or-death distress cases on the water.          

Dooris said his favorite aspect of public health is that it transcends virtually every field of study. “Public health permits me to look at issues from numerous perspectives,” he said.  “I have been able to leverage my public health education to solve challenging issues throughout my Coast Guard career.”

After nearly 24 years of honorable service, Dooris plans to retire from the U.S. Coast Guard on Aug. 1, 2024. He’ll stay rooted in the Cleveland area to provide stability for his family after moving so much during his service, and also continue to develop professionally. 

men standing on a boat

Dooris, pictured second from right, standing with coworkers and the Director for the Port of Monroe on the oldest active towing vessel (built in 1897) in the United States homeported in the Port of Monroe, Michigan.  In the picture, the vessel is called the GEORGIA but since the picture was taken about a year ago, she was renamed, AMERICA.  (Photo courtesy of Dooris )

In reflecting on the growth of the COPH after his time as a student, Dooris pointed to the continuing education opportunities. “I absolutely love the fact that the COPH has an online DrPH Program for working professionals,” he said. “I was accepted to the program in 2020 but, due to work constraints, I was unable to start. Nevertheless, it presents a tremendous opportunity for those seeking to enhance their public health knowledge and expertise!”

Fast Five:

What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
My dream has always been (and remains) to visit space, whether as an astronaut or as a paying passenger in the future.  

Where would we find you on the weekend?
Recently, I have been spending a great deal of time preparing for military retirement and studying for the CPP exam.  But normally, I love checking off bucket list items with my family.  

What is the last book you read?
“Failure: Why Science Is So Successful,” by Stuart Firestein.  

What superpower would you like to have?
I truly wish I had the power to heal others.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
“Rise of the Guardians” remains my all-time favorite.  There are numerous life-lessons captured throughout the film.

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Welcome to the USF COPH news page. Our marketing and communications team is entrusted with storytelling. Through written stories, photography, video and social media we highlight alumni, faculty, staff and students who are committed to passionately solving problems and creating conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being. These are our stories.