This story vividly recounts the professional journey of a woman uniquely equipped to combat infectious diseases, as a passionate microbiologist turned competent infection preventionist (IP). Shannon Simmons, DHSc, MPH, CIC, MLS (ASCP), made a significant pivot in her career when she transitioned from her beloved role as a microbiologist to a vital player in healthcare, especially during the pandemonium of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From an early age, Simmons was mesmerized by the invisible world of microbes and their enormous prowess to cause profound effects on the human body. Guided by her enthusiasm for microbiology, she pursued a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science, hoping that it would eventually land her the role she had long dreamt of―a microbiologist.
At Texas State University, Simmons was fortunate to benefit from the mentorship of Rodney E. Rohde, Ph.D., MS, SV, SM(ASCP) CM, MBCM, FACSc. While she eventually realized her dream of becoming a microbiologist, her keen, inquisitive nature yearned for more. This unquenchable thirst led her to undertake a master’s degree in public health despite having a gratifying job.
It was during her internship at a rehabilitation hospital under an infection prevention director that Simmons had an enlightening epiphany. The internship unveiled the critical interconnectedness of microbiology and patient safety, ultimately convincing Simmons to pursue a career in infection prevention.
Despite her readiness to transition into the IP role, Simmons faced a formidable barrier – the rigid requirement for IPs to be registered nurses. However, Simmons got her break when she was given a chance by Karla Voy-Hatter, RN, the director of infection prevention at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
During her tenure at Parkland, Simmons gained extensive experience while working with a diverse team of IPs, enabling her to adapt creative and flexible strategies in her roles. She then furthered her education by pursuing a doctorate of health sciences degree, aimed at preparing her to craft and manage strategies to address the universal challenges of health care access, cost, and quality.
With the attainment of her doctorate, Simmons ascended to the role of a director of infection prevention. Her career trajectory took a challenging turn as the COVID-19 crisis hit soon after, offering her priceless experience. She now serves as the program manager for ambulatory infection prevention and control for CHRISTUS Health.
Her advanced degree in health sciences, complemented by her background in education, enhances her ability to educate a diverse set of adult learners effectively. By actively applying, translating, and disseminating research into professional practice, Simmons embodies her role as an IP with great pride and unflagging determination.