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Faculty Profile: U.S. Navy Scientist Lieutenant Commander N. Cody Schaal

USU assistant professor Lt. Cmdr. Cody Schaal lectures to Industrial Hygiene program residents.  Schaal served as director of the USU residency program from 2016-2019.  (Courtesy photo)

Story by Megan Mudersbach, Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton

“As a Navy Medicine officer, I am motivated by developing our Navy leaders,” said Lieutenant Commander N. Cody Schaal, Industrial Hygiene Officer.

Serving as Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton’s (NAMRU-Dayton) Environmental Health Effects Laboratory (EHEL) deputy director and Occupational and Environmental Health department head, Lt. Cmdr. Schaal, helps lead the EHEL charge in addressing public health, occupational and environmental exposure challenges surrounding health hazards in the operational environment. 

Before bringing his talents to the Navy, Schaal first served his country as a dedicated member of the United States Air Force in 1996, where the Air Force recognized his aptitude for grasping scientific principles and assigned him to the Bioenvironmental Engineering field.

“Similar to many, I did not purposely choose the Industrial Hygiene field initially. I did not know what I wanted for a career as a young 18-year-old after recently graduating from high school, so I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force’s ‘open general’ track,” recalls Schaal.

Portrait photo of Lt. Cmdr. N. Cody Schaal
Lt. Cmdr. N. Cody Schaal, assistant professor in USU's 
Department of Preventative Medicine and Biostatistics, is
the Occupational Environmental Health department head and
deputy director of the Environmental Health Effects Laboratory
of the Naval Medical Research Unit Daytona, Ohio.
(U.S. Navy Photo)

From there, he worked in a number of occupational health and environmental protection roles ensuring force health protection for Air Force service-members. After commissioning with the Navy in 2005, he continued his work solving occupational health problems applicable to both the military and the private sector. 

For Schaal, one of the most exciting aspects of being an Industrial Hygiene Officer is “the wide variety of assignments and roles.” 

“An assignment on an aircraft carrier allows us to manage a health, safety, and environmental program for a floating city of thousands of sailors and marines at sea responsible for launching and recovering aircraft,” said Schaal, “On the other hand, an assignment at a complex industrial shipyard provides an opportunity to assess workplace exposures during U.S. Navy shipbuilding and shipbreaking.”

Industrial Hygiene Officers can also be assigned to academic roles to prepare the next generation of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) leaders. Such was the case for Schaal, who served as program director for the Master of Science in Public Health program at the Uniformed Services University from 2016-2019 and still holds an appointment as assistant professor in the USU Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics.

“I have a sense of fulfillment when I’m able to provide military career advice or guide a young OHS practitioner,” said Schaal.

After arriving at NAMRU-Dayton, Schaal transitioned from an academic role to a research role, looking at exposure assessment techniques and specifically addressing chemical induced hearing loss and noise. At the command, he enjoys being able to work with the talented team of investigators and engineers to solve the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) most challenging occupational and environmental exposure dilemmas.

Schaal finds particular motivation in the dynamism of his field, where the consistent application of new research developments help improve the working conditions of warfighters and civilian personnel, as well as influence recommended mitigation measures.

Lt. Cmdr. Cody Schaal accepting an award.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Cody Schaal (right) accepts the Navy Industrial Hygiene Officer of the Year award from Rear Adm. Terry Moulton in 2018. (U.S. Navy Photo)

At NAMRU-Dayton, Schaal investigates risk factors associated with auditory and non-auditory effects of hazardous noise exposures, ototoxicants, and extended duration noise exposures that prevent auditory rest.

“I’m confident that a better understanding of how these risk factors affect the health of our military and civilian personnel can be used to improve weapon systems design, hearing loss prevention programs, and methods of exposure control,” said Schaal.

Having previously received such honors as the 2011 and 2018 Industrial Hygiene Officer of the Year and the 2010 Captain Ernest W. Brown Award in Navy Occupational Health, Schaal naturally aims to continue his passionate pursuit of naval excellence within the Industrial Hygiene profession as well as higher education and research.

“My future professional goals include broad service within both the military and private sector by continuing contributions to academia and serving in working group and committee leadership roles ultimately affecting policies that will ensure service-member force health protection,” said Schaal.

Earlier this year, Schaal also received a 2020 Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, which recognized his volunteer service to several civilian organizations. 

“The OHS field continues to be challenged with reversing rising hearing impairment trends in the DoD,” said Schaal, “So I want to do my part to not only improve the skills of present and future practitioners through education but focus on solving complex hearing conservation problems associated with the damaging aspects of hazardous noise inside and outside the workplace and improving scientific knowledge regarding the effects of ototoxicants and combined stressors.”    

Lt. Cmdr. Cody Schaal
Lt. Cmdr. Cody Schaal, assistant professor and former Industrial Hygiene program director in USU's Department of Preventative Medicine and Biostatistics,
is in one of NAMRU-Dayton's operational exposure labs where scientists can simultaneously test chemical exposures with environmental stressors to assess
potential health effects. (Photo by Megan Mudersbach, Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton)