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Debra Brandon

Headshot of Debra Brandon

Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Associate Professor and Director of the Ph.D. in Nursing Program


Debra Brandon wears many hats. In addition to being an associate professor, she is also the director of the Ph.D. program, the postdoctoral fellow program, and graduate studies in the Duke University School of Nursing. Prior to joining the Duke faculty in 1999, Brandon worked as a pediatric clinical nurse specialist and a developmental clinical nurse specialist. She was also on the faculty in the nursing and medical schools of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brandon has served as the adviser for 6 Ph.D. students, 32 master’s students, 34 undergraduates, and 3 postdocs. She has also served on the committee for nine other graduate students. Brandon won the Duke University Hospital Nurse Research Mentor Award in 2002 and was awarded the Duke University School of Nursing Ph.D. Student Teaching Award in 2015.

Brandon’s research focuses on the health and developments of high-risk infants and young children with an overall goal of improving short- and long-term outcomes of high risk preterm infants and their families. She has authored over 70 publications and has received over 40 external grants during her time at Duke. She has also won numerous awards for her research, including the Donna Wong Pediatric Nursing Writing award and a fellow designation from the American Academy of Nursing. Brandon is an active member of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) and the International Society for Infant Studies ISIS) and is a co-editor for the journal, Advances in Neonatal Care.


“What I really like to see in a student is someone who has developed a passion for their program of research. Anybody can publish if you are persistent enough … but it’s a special person who really has a passion for what they are doing. … When I see that passion, then half the battle is won.”

On the Importance of Passion
On Making Students More Independent


“Dr. Brandon really never sees obstacles as barriers to progress. Instead, she sees them as opportunities to think about better ways to approach the long-term goal. This is a mental model that I continue to use daily in my work efforts even two years following my graduation from the program.”

“A life situation extended my Ph.D. program an additional year, and although I was devastated, Dr. Brandon did not seem discouraged and continued to mentor me until the end. I know without her continued support during this time in my life, I would not have finished my Ph.D.”

“Her accessibility, sincerity, and responsiveness spread much beyond our weekly meetings. I was (and continue to be) humbled by her willingness to spend countless hours reading and critiquing my multiple grant proposals, manuscript drafts, abstract submissions, dissertation chapters, and the like.”

“Her mentoring style is one of warmth, generosity, and professional development.”

“What astounded me the most was Deb extended her mentoring to countless other students—ranging from all the other students enrolled in the Ph.D. program, to nursing and non-nursing undergraduate students at Duke, to prospective students interested in the program and so on. She was an endless supporter to all students and that trait remains to be truly inspiring.”