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Leigh Ann Simmons, PhD, MFT

Associate Professor
Phone: 
(919) 684-9555
Office: 
3077 Pearson Building

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).

Academic Program Affiliations

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice Program
  • PhD in Nursing Program

Education

  • 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
depression
obesity

Representative Publications

  • 2018 -- Noonan, D., Silva, S. ,Njuru, J., Bishop, T., Fish, L. J., Simmons, L. A., Choi, S. H., Pollack, K. I. Feasibility of a text-based smoking cessation intervention in rural older adults Health Education Research.
  • 2018 -- Dardas, L. A., Silva, S., Smoski, M., Noonan, D., & Simmons, L. A. Adolescent depression in Jordan: Symptoms profile, gender differences, and the role of social context . Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services. 56(2); 44-55
  • 2018 -- Dardas, L. A., Silva, S., Smoski, M., Noonan, D., & Simmons, L. A. The prevalence of depression symptoms among Arab adolescents: Findings from Jordan. Public Health Nursing.
  • 2018 -- Collins, D. A., Thompson, K., Atwood, K. A., Abadi, M. H., Rychener, D. L., Simmons, L. A. Integration of health coaching concepts and skills into clinical practice among VA providers: A qualitative study Global Advances in Health and Medicine.
  • 2017 -- Dardas, L. A., Silva, S., van de Water, B., Vance, A., Smoski, M. J., Noonan, D., & Simmons, L. A. Psychosocial correlates of Jordanian adolescents’ help-seeking intentions for depression: A nationally representative school survey Journal of School Nursing. September, 2017
  • 2017 -- Dardas, L. A., Silva, S. Noonan, D., & Simmons, L. A. Studying depression among Arab adolescents: Methodological considerations, challenges, and lessons learned from Jordan Stigma and Health. April, 2017
  • 2017 -- O’Connell, T. M., Wroth, S. W., Sánchez, C. L., Swamy, G., Newgard, C., Kuhn, C., Bilbo, S. D., Simmons, L. A. Perinatal Western-type diet and associated gestational weight gain alter postpartum maternal mood Brain & Behavior. 2017 7(10); e00828
  • 2017 -- Dardas, L. A., van de Water, B., & Simmons, L. A. Parental involvement in adolescent depression interventions: A systematic review of randomized trials International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. 2017
  • 2017 -- Yang, N. Y., Wolever, R., Roberts, R., Perlman, A., Dolor, R., Abrams, D., Ginsburg, G., & Simmons, L. A. Integrative health care services utilization as a function of body mass index: A BraveNet Practice Based Research Network Study Advances in Integrative Medicine. 2017 4(1); 14-21
  • 2017 -- Dardas, L. A., Silva, S., Smoski, M., Noonan, D., & Simmons, L. A. Personal and perceived depression stigma among Jordanian adolescents: Associations with depression severity and personal characteristics Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. 2017 5 499-506

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Grant Funding (Selected)

  • Duke Center for REearch to AdvanCe Healthcare (REACH) Equity

    Duke Health Disparities Center
    1 U54 MD012530-01
    09/2017 to 06/2022
    Role: Co-Investigator / Co-Director, Research, Education, and Training Subcore

    Establish the Duke Center for REearch to AdvanCe Healthcare (REACH) Equity, which focuses on establishing an infrastructure to conduct health equity research and develop scholars with expertise in this area.

  • Postdoctoral Training in Genomic Medicine Research

    1 T32 HG008955 01A1
    06/2017 to 05/2022
    Role: Mentor

    Establish a training program for emerging and established investigators to develop programs of research in genomic medicine.

  • All Babies and Children Thrive (ABC Thrive)

    Sperling Family Charitable Foundation / Duke Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies
    09/2017 to 08/2020
    Role: Faculty Director and Chair, Steering Committee

    University-wide, interdisciplinary research initiative to fuel innovations in early childhood development.

  • GROWell Online

    DUSON Center for Nursing Research
    03/2018 to 02/2019

    Pilot study to adapt GROWell Online, a digital intervention to improve diet during pregnancy, for Spanish-speaking women with overweight/obesity (Texto Para Mi Mejor Salud).

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

    National Institutes of Health
    1R15-CA198841-01
    08/2015 to 07/2018
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • Depression Stigma Among Arab Adolescents

    Sigma Theta Tau International/Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science
    07/2016 to 06/2017
    Role: Mentor
  • Goals for Reaching Optimal Wellness (GROWell): A Pilot Study of a Dietary Intervention During Pregnancy to Reduce Risk for Postpartum Depression

    Duke University School of Nursing Center for Nursing Research
    03/2016 to 02/2017
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • Goals for Reaching Optimal Wellness (GROWell): A Pilot Study of a Dietary Intervention During Pregnancy to Reduce Risk for Postpartum Depression

    DUSON Center for Nursing Research
    03/2016 to 02/2017

    Test the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a mobile intervention to help pregnant women change dietary consumption from primarily Western diet to a primarily prudent diet.

  • A Mindfulness-based Intervention for Pain Catastrophizing in Sickle Cell Disease

    National Institutes of Health
    1F31-NR014954-01
    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.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Last year the faculty of Duke University School of Nursing embarked on a collaboration with the faculty of Midwifery & Palliative Care at King’s College London, to cultivate innovative partnerships that foster the promotion of nursing and midwifery research. The Advancement of Nursing Science fund was established to support two stages of collaboration between researchers – the first for travel between institutions, and the second for the development of pilot research projects, which should form the basis of a larger research project for which external funding will be sought.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Congratulations to Leigh Ann Simmons and her entire team who have received an award from the Duke University School of Nursing and King’s College London for their application entitled "Paternal Influences on Overweight and Obesity among Preschool Age Children." This project has been awarded $10,735 for a one-year period with a start date of April 16, 2018.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Leigh Ann Simmons recently published an article entitled "Integration of Health Coaching Concepts and Skills into Clinical Practice Among VHA Providers: A Qualitative Study" in Global Advances in Health and Medicine. Co-authors include experts from Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Abstract

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Center for Nursing Research recently announced its small grant awardees: 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Leigh Ann Simmons was featured in a recent news article entitled "New Project to Fuel Innovations in Early Childhood Development" published in DukeToday. She leads the All Babies and Children Thrive (ABC Thrive) initiative, that promotes optimal development of babies and young children.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

PhD alumna Latefa Dardas, Susan Silva, Devon Noonan and Leigh Ann Simmons recently published an article entitled "The prevalence of depressive symptoms among Arab adolescents: Findings from Jordan" in Public Health Nursing. Co-authors include experts from Duke University School of Medicine. 

Abstract

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

PhD alumna Latefa Dardas, Susan Silva, Devon Noonan and Leigh Ann Simmons recently published an article entitled "Adolescent Depression in Jordan: Symptoms Profile, Gender Differences, and the Role of Social Context" in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursi

Thursday, December 21, 2017

PhD alumna Latefa Dardas and faculty members Susan Silva, Devon Noonan and Leigh Ann Simmons recently published an article entitled "Adolescent Depression in Jordan: Symptoms Profile, Gender Differences, and the Role of Social Context" in the Journal of Ps

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:

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