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Leigh Ann Simmons, PhD, MFT

Associate Professor
(919) 684-9555
3071 Pearson Building

Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons is an Associate Professor in the Duke University School of Nursing. A former Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health scholar, she has published extensively and presented nationally and internationally in the areas of women’s health disparities, peripartum health behaviors and decision-making, personalized health care, and health care policy. Dr. Simmons’ current research focuses on innovations in personalized health behavior change interventions to prevent and manage chronic disease among women who experience health disparities due to rural residence, racial/ethnic identity, and socioeconomic status. She has a specific interest in addressing obesity and depression, which often co-occur and serve as gateway conditions to common disorders, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Dr. Simmons earned a PhD in child and family development from the University of Georgia, a master's degree in couple and family therapy from MCP-Hahnemann University (now Drexel University), and a BA in literature/writing from the University of California at San Diego. Between 2005-2010 she served as a Health Disparities Scholar through the NIH Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Prior to coming to DUSON she was an assistant professor in the departments of Family Studies and Health Services Management at the University of Kentucky and in the Division of General Internal Medicine in the Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Simmons has extensive policy experience, having served as a Congressional Fellow on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). She currently serves as the chair of the public policy and advocacy working group for the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Personalized Medicine.

Academic Program Affiliations

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice Program
  • PhD in Nursing Program


  • Ph.D. - University of Georgia at Athens
  • MFT - MCP-Hahnemann University
  • BA - University of California - San Diego

Awards and Honors

  • 2012 || Selected Participant, Duke LEADER program (Leadership Development for Researchers)
  • 2010 || Featured in "101 Careers in Public Health" by Beth Seltzer
  • 2007 || Futures 100 Award, University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Sciences
  • 2006 || Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Scholar (2006-2008), University of Kentucky
  • 2005 || Selected Participant, Circles of Power: Women Faculty in Leadership (2005-2006), University of Kentucky’s President’s Commission on Women
  • 2005 || University of Georgia Robert C. Anderson Memorial Award Nominee, Nominated by Dean, College of Family and Consumer Sciences
  • 2004 || Inducted, Phi Kappa Phi National Academic Honor Society
  • 2004 || National Council on Family Relations Ruth Hathaway Jewson Graduate Research/Dissertation Award, National Council on Family Relations
  • 2004 || National Council on Family Relations Student/New Professional Award, National Council on Family Relations
  • 2003 || Congressional Fellow Award, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, The University of Georgia
  • 2002 || Certificate of Merit Conference Submission Paper, National Council on Family Relations Family Therapy Section
  • 2002 || inducted, Gamma Sigma Delta International Honor Society of Agriculture
  • 2001 || Karen R. Davis Scholarship (2001-2002), The University of Georgia
  • 2001 || University-wide Assistantship (2001-2002), Boyd Center for Graduate Research, The University of Georgia
  • 2000 || Award for Academic Excellence, MCP-Hahnemann University School of Health Professions
  • 2000 || Inducted, Alpha Eta National Honor Society for Allied Health Professionals
  • 1993 || Santa Clara County, California Award for Outstanding Victim Support, Santa Clara County, CA

Areas of Expertise

  • Family Health
  • Psychiatric / Behavioral Health
  • Translational Research
  • Women's Health

Areas of Interest

health disparities
rural health
maternal-child health
integrative medicine
personalized health care

Representative Publications

  • 2016 -- PubMed # : 27701136 Dardas, L. A. and Silva, S. and Noonan, D. and Simmons, L. A. A pilot study of depression, stigma, and attitudes towards seeking professional psychological help among Arab adolescents. Int J Adolesc Med Health.
  • 2016 -- PubMed # : 27168124 Dardas, L. A. and Bailey Jr, D. E. and Simmons, L. A. Adolescent Depression in the Arab Region: A Systematic Literature Review. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 37(8); 569-585
  • 2016 -- PubMed # : 27377312 Noonan, D. and Dardas, L. and Bice-Wigington, T. and Sloane, R. and Benjamin, R. and Choi, S. H. and Simmons, L. A. Understanding Multiple Behavioral Risk Factors for Cancer in Rural Women. Public Health Nurs.
  • 2016 -- Seldon, L.E., McDonough, K., Turner, B.T., & Simmons, L. Evaluation of a hospital-based pneumonia nurse navigator program Journal of Nursing Administration.
  • 2016 -- 2. Simmons, L. A., Drake, C. D., Gaudet, T. & Snyderman, R. Personalized health planning in Veterans Health Administration primary care settings Federal Practitioner. 33(1); 27-34
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26577555 Simmons, L. A. and Yang, N. Y. and Wu, Q. and Bush, H. M. and Crofford, L. J. Public and personal depression stigma in a rural American female sample. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 29(6); 407-12
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26118332 Dardas, L. A. and Simmons, L. A. The stigma of mental illness in Arab families: a concept analysis. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. November, 2015 22(9); 668-79
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26089032 Collins, D. A. and Shamblen, S. R. and Atwood, K. A. and Rychener, D. L. and Scarbrough, W. H. and Abadi, M. H. and Simmons, L. A. Evaluation of a Health Coaching Course for Providers and Staff in Veterans Health Affairs Medical Facilities. J Prim Care Community Health. October, 2015 6(4); 250-5
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25673578 Williams, H. and Simmons, L. A. and Tanabe, P. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Advanced Nursing Practice: A Nonpharmacologic Approach to Health Promotion, Chronic Disease Management, and Symptom Control. J Holist Nurs. September, 2015 33(3); 247-59 PMC4532647
  • 2015 -- Simmons, L. A. and Yang, N. Y. and Wu, Q. and Bush, H. M. and Crofford, L. J. Public and personal depression stigma in a rural American female sample. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. July, 2015, Epub ahead of print


Grant Funding (Selected)

  • Addressing Tobacco Use Disparities through an Innovative Mobile Phone Intervention: The textto4gosmokelesstobacco

    National Institutes of Health
    08/2015 to 07/2018
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • A Mindfulness-based Intervention for Pain Catastrophizing in Sickle Cell Disease

    National Institutes of Health
    09/2014 to 08/2017
    Role: Co-sponsor

    This project will be the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) of mindfulness-based stress reduction to reduce pain catastrophizing, and improve quality of life for sickle cell disease patients with chronic pain.

  • Maternal Nutrition and the Developing Brain

    Bass Connections
    06/2013 to 05/2015
    Role: Team Leader/Co-PI

    Interdisciplinary translational study examining relationship of nutrition to levels of branched chain amino acids and incidence of depression in female mice and humans who have just given birth.

  • Patient Engagement Strategies and Training to Improve Patient-Centered Care in the VHA

    Veterans Health Administration (sub-contract with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation)
    10/2013 to 09/2014
    Role: Subcontract Principal Investigator
  • Personalized Medicine in Women’s Obesity Prevention

    Duke Center for Personalized Medicine
    03/2011 to 02/2013
    Role: Principal Investigator

    The primary aim of this pilot study is to test the feasibility and effectiveness of a personalized health planning with integrative health coaching (PHP-IHC) intervention to prevent postpartum weight retention (PPWR) in women, a documented risk factor for mid-life obesity and related morbidities. A secondary aim is to develop for future validation a preliminary risk profile for PPWR that includes molecular data, which will enable better prediction – and thus prevention – of PPWR, thereby further enhancing the capabilities of PHP-IHC.

  • The Role of Satiety Proteins in Pregnancy Outcomes and Postpartum Weight Retention

    Charles Hammond Fund (Duke Obstetrics)
    07/2011 to 06/2012
    Role: Mentor/Co-Principal Investigator
  • Depression & CHD: Cellular-Molecular Mechanisms

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) / National Institutes of Health
    R01 HL067459
    10/2010 to 09/2014
    Role: Co-investigator
  • Rural Maternal Mental Health Disparities

    National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) / National Institutes of Health
    L60 MD001455-03
    07/2009 to 06/2010
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • Blue to You: A Women’s Mental Health Awareness Campaign

    US Department of Agriculture/Cooperative State Research, Education, & Extension Service / Health Educatioin through Extension Leadership
    09/2007 to 08/2008
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • SUPPORT: Supporting Positive Pregnancy Outcomes in Rural Towns

    March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
    02/2007 to 08/2008
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Duke University School of Nursing and The Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London have partnered to foster the promotion of research and greater inform the practice of professional nursing and midwifery. The schools will jointly administer a grants program and a pilot project award to cultivate innovative, scalable scientific inquiry.  The pilot project will form the basis of a larger research project and external funding will be sought. Interested faculty members submitted their applications earlier this year.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The NIH has recently announced funding for The Duke Center for Research to Advance Healthcare Equity, with Kimberly Johnson as PI. There are many DUSON faculty involved in this grant:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

PhD alumna Latefa Dardas, faculty Susan Silva, Devon Noonan, Leigh Ann Simmons and PhD student Ashlee Vance published an article entitled "Psychosocial Correlates of Jordanian Adolescents' Help-Seeking Intentions for Depression: Findings From a Nationally Representative School Survey" in the Journal of School Nursing. Co-authors include experts from Harvard Medical School and the Duke University Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Leigh Ann Simmons published an article entitled "Perinatal western-type diet and associated gestational weight gain alter postpartum maternal mood" in the Brain and Behavior. Co-authors include experts from Duke University Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke Integrative Medicine, Duke School of Medicine.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Leigh Ann Simmons moves from her role as chair-elect to chair of DUSON's Faculty Governance Association, effective August 21.

In her new position as chair, Leigh Ann will plan and convene meetings of the FGA, and FGA Executive Committee, coordinate the annual distinguished teaching award process, collaborate closely with my office regarding faculty affairs, and represent our collective faculty at both internal and Duke University meetings.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

PhD alumni Hants Williams, Susan Silva, Leigh Ann Simmons and Paula Tanabe recently published an article entitled "A telephonic mindfulness-based intervention for persons with sickle cell disease: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial," in the May issue of the Trials.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) has a desire to empower women in caring for themselves. The School developed the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner major in 2015 to prepare advanced practice nurses with the skills and expertise necessary to provide primary and specialty medical care for women.

Friday, April 21, 2017

PhD student Latefa Dardas, Susan Silva, Devon Noonan and Leigh Ann Simmons published an article entitled "Studying Depression Among Arab Adolescents: Methodological Considerations, Challenges, and Lessons Learned from Jordan" in the American Psychological Association PsycNet.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Leigh Ann Simmons was the invited speaker for the American Academy of Health Behavior Annual Scientific meeting in Tucson, Ariz. Her presentation was entitled "Beyond the Genome: Advancing Precision Medicine through Personalized Health Behavior Change Interventions."