Leigh Ann Simmons
Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring
Associate Professor in the School of Nursing
Since 2012, Leigh Ann Simmons has been an associate professor at the Duke University School of Nursing and a faculty affiliate at the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine, Science and Society, and the Duke Institute for Brain Science. Since beginning her career at the University of Kentucky in 2004, she has served on the committees of seven master’s theses and research projects. At Duke, she has supervised 12 students on a range of endeavors, from standing as primary mentor for Ph.D. dissertations to serving as a committee member for Doctor of Nursing Practice Capstones.
With her expertise in health policy, Simmons offers her students her mentorship across a range of research topics with a specialization in social welfare and family policy. Her research aims to reduce the disparity of chronic disease risk and push for population health equity in vulnerable populations that are medically underserved. Additionally, she served as the chair of the Faculty Governance Association in the School of Nursing, the founding faculty director for All Babies and Children Thrive, and chair of the Faculty Advisory Council for Bass Connections from 2017 to 2019. Simmons’ research has been funded by the USDA, the NIH, and the Veterans Health Administrations, among others.
“There are three main characteristics of a good mentor. The first is the mentor cares deeply about students’ personal and professional well-being and success and shows it by being available, linking students to resources and opportunities, and actively engaging in learning with the student. The second is the mentor encourages and supports students to work right up to their edge so they continue to grow and achieve to their maximum capabilities. The third is the mentor provides continuous, specific, constructive verbal and written feedback to help students develop the knowledge, confidence, and skills they need to successfully transition to independence.”
In Their Words
Excerpts from Simmons's Nomination
“Dr. Simmons has always been aware and intuitive of when I am in need for her support, and she is always able to correctly perceive my feelings and thoughts in a way that makes me feel secure and highly welcomed. Her genuine care and support helped me bring out my independent nature, and test my ability to adapt to diverse situations while being able to problem solve.”
“Dr. Simmons is innovative, creative, inspiring and a role model of how to move science forward. I remember the first time I met with Dr. Simmons to discuss my research as I was having trouble focusing and during our first conversation she said something that I will never forget; ‘Find something you are passionate about and go out and learn everything you can about it. That passion will sustain you during the ups and downs of being a researcher in academia. I’m here to help anyway I can.’”
“She actively seeks out opportunities for my growth both now and down the road. I have an entire folder of emails from her of future development programs that could be useful for me; and this started in the first semester. I now realize that from day 1 she was already thinking ahead and mentally developing a training plan for me before it was even on my radar.”
“Dr. Simmons advocates for student success as she tailors her advice and mentoring to each student’s needs. This advice helps maintain open lines of communication—she is always honest with feedback, willing to work with other faculty mentors to obtain the knowledge I need to succeed, and is willing to meet with other individuals in order for projects to succeed.”