Simmons, an associate professor in anthropology and public health and an associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Arnold School of Public Health, will lead the community of approximately 300 students.
"David’s depth of experience and investment in student success makes him the ideal person to lead this important new student initiative,” Provost Joan Gabel said in a press release. “His training and experience, combined with his relationships across campus, the state, the nation and the world will allow him to lead our Galen Health Fellows in whatever direction their health care passion takes them.”
The Galen Health Fellows will allow students to live in a residential community while exploring a range of integrated health science programming.
Galen Fellows represent an array of health-related areas: biology, biomedical engineering, cardiovascular technology, chemistry and biochemistry, exercise science, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, public health and social work. It is among 18 living and learning communities at the university with its hub in Patterson Hall and has a separate application process.
Simmons joined the university’s College of Arts and Sciences faculty 12 years ago, after completing a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. His research in medical anthropology and public health focuses on western and southern Africa, the Dominican Republic and the southern United States.
He says helping students see health through an interdisciplinary lens is what inspired him to apply for the faculty principal position.
“My experiences all around the world – in Africa and the Caribbean – have taught me that an interdisciplinary frame is important for understanding complex health problems. This means understanding that health and disease aren’t just biological states. Social forces of poverty, social isolation, discrimination and racism can get under people’s skins and make them sick,” Simmons said in a release. “As a teacher, I draw on my global experiences to give students a sense of the range of approaches to help ameliorate social, physical and psychological suffering.”
Simmons says he sees mentoring at the heart of his new role.
“I know from my own experience as an undergraduate that having great mentors made my college experience productive and rich beyond measure,” Simmons said. “Having people around me who were well-informed, passionate and interested in me helped pave the way for much of my own sense of mentoring and the paying-it-forward that I hope to bring to my role as faculty principal.”
Galen Fellows can expect a full schedule of activities that will connect their academic experiences with the learning they will experience through internships with local health care facilities; health-related study abroad opportunities, including one in Costa Rica; ongoing talks by health sciences faculty and health care professionals and research opportunities that will pair them with health science faculty, Simmons said
Simmons also is an executive board member of the American Anthropological Association and serves on the board of directors for the South Carolina TB Association.