Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons is Associate Professor and Chair of the Faculty Governance Association in the Duke University School of Nursing. The overall aim of her research is to promote population health equity by reducing disparities in chronic disease risk among vulnerable and medically underserved populations. Her research has been funded by the USDA, the NIH, the Veterans Health Administration, and her universities of employment. Dr. Simmons has published extensively and presented nationally and internationally in three main areas: (1) characterizing co-occurring chronic disease risk factors for specific health disparities populations (e.g., rural, racial/ethnic minorities, low socioeconomic status); (2) understanding the impact of early life exposures (e.g., prenatal, family, and community environments) on later life chronic disease risk; and (3) developing and testing personalized behavior change interventions to reduce chronic disease risk behaviors. 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. In addition to her work in DUSON, Dr. Simmons serves as Faculty Director and Chair of the Steering Committee for ABC Thrive, an interdisciplinary, university-wide early childhood research initiative, and Chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee for Bass Connections, a university-wide educational and research initiative.
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 assistant professor in the departments of Family Studies and Health Services Management at the University of Kentucky, where she was also a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Scholar, 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).