David Simmons’ life changed when he was working as head nurse of UVA’s general surgery department and met his future wife, Deanna, on a double date.
“I thought I would just be here in Charlottesville for a few years, but then I met Deanna,” he said. “She made it clear to me that her family was here, and she wasn’t going anywhere.”
“We didn’t set out to do this, but we were asked to decipher some of the information that was being channeled through the media.There were questions regarding COVID, questions regarding the vaccine, questions of how best to be protected, of how best to protect yourself.”David Simmons, clinical instructor and senior clinician, UVA Health's Department of Nephrology
Inspired by his mother and brother, who were both on dialysis, Simmons (BSN ’84, MSN ’93) began to narrow his focus to patients with kidney disease and today works as a senior clinician in UVA’s Kidney Center Clinic. Along the way, he and Deanna created deep roots in the community, becoming members of the Black Nurses Association of Charlottesville and trustees in the Mount Zion First African Baptist Church.
When the pandemic hit Charlottesville, Simmons and his wife found themselves serving as de facto public health experts in their circles.
“We didn’t set out to do this, but we were asked to decipher some of the information that was being channeled through the media,” Simmons said. “There were questions regarding COVID, questions regarding the vaccine, questions of how best to be protected, of how best to protect yourself.”
Simmons serves on his church’s COVID response team, which keeps tabs on the local positivity rate and develops guidelines for the congregation to worship safely. “Our pastor is a physician and very engaged with the community, and he pulled in nursing staff to help,” Simmons said. Worship was streamed online until positivity rates lowered, which brought new members from across the country. When in-person services resumed, the COVID response team “developed a nice little symptoms checklist that the members need to report on as they enter the church,” Simmons said. “We still check temperatures and use hand sanitizer.”
Simmons predicts COVID will be with us a long time and he is determined to continue to implement mitigation strategies and debunk misinformation to keep his community safe. He finds spending time with community groups, such as the church, his fraternity, and his Masonic brothers, helps quell some of his own anxiety about the pandemic. And, in June, he and Deanna will see their twin grandchildren, Edward, and Olivia, for the first time in person since the pandemic started. “That is the biggest comfort,” he said.
Advice to future nurse leaders: Find a mentor—that’s crucial. See if you can mentor to someone who’s just entered the profession. Become active in professional organizations. These are things that not only helped me to grow, but also helped me to help others.
- Tanya Thomas, clinical instructor and co-creator of UVA Health's COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies infusion clinic
- Vickie Southall, award-winning assistant professor and veteran community health and pediatric nurse
- Debra Barksdale, dean, UNC Greensboro School of Nursing, mentor, and nurse scientist
- Ashley Apple, assistant professor, pediatric nurse practitioner, and the Virginia Nurses Association's commissioner on government relations
- David Simmons, clinical instructor and senior clinician, UVA Health Department of Nephrology, Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, trustee
- Becky Compton, UPG's chief clinical officer and Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners' president
- Dawn Adams, Virginia State Delegate and nurse practitioner