Simmons Gift Funds Women's Urology Research

Dee and D'Andra Simmons with Dr. Zimmern

By Sharon Reynolds

D’Andra Simmons and her mother, Dee, are successful Dallas businesswomen in the esthetics and wellness industries who are genuinely concerned about the health and well-being of women everywhere. Their $100,000 gift will support the research of Dr. Philippe Zimmern, an international expert on women’s urologic health. As Professor of Urology at UT Southwestern, Dr. Zimmern is investigating new treatments for common pelvic floor disorders that can significantly reduce a woman’s quality of life.

“It’s not easy to talk about urinary incontinence, frequent urinary tract infections, and vaginal prolapse,” said D’Andra, known for her role in the "Real Housewives of Dallas” reality television series. “It’s embarrassing, and many women suffer in silence. It can be the most excruciatingly painful experience to have even one of these symptoms, and quite often, women experience them in multiples.”

D’Andra was born with a rare urinary condition that has caused pain and discomfort throughout her life. At age 4, she underwent the first of many surgeries and sought help for years from various specialists to no avail – until she met Dr. Zimmern. She is now a most grateful patient along with Dee and the many friends they have referred to him. They all agree that Dr. Zimmern has given them back their lives.

Dr. Zimmern often sees patients who are in severe pain and desperate for effective treatments.

“Traditionally, most urology was practiced by men for men’s urological issues, and the female side of care had been neglected for some time,” he said. “About 25 years ago, more urologists – both male and female – began specializing in the field of female urologic health.”

He collaborates with scientists with expertise in a variety of specialties, including molecular biology, pathology, biochemistry, microbiology, and infectious disease, both at UT Southwestern and other institutions. His research collaborations are multifaceted and complex, investigating what causes bacteria to grow in the urine, how the immune system eliminates bacteria, and what causes inflammation to develop inside the bladder wall.

“For a long time, we’ve counted on antibiotics to treat chronic conditions, but they no longer work because some women develop allergies or resistance to them,” Dr. Zimmern said. “Through this research, we hope to develop alternative forms of treatment.” 

While medical research in the U.S. is largely funded by federal sources like the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, these grants can also be difficult and time-consuming to obtain. Philanthropy often serves as a critical first step to launch promising new studies while investigators work to secure additional sources of funding.

“Philanthropic support is a lifeline for research and has fueled countless programs and discoveries at UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “D’Andra and Dee share our vision of a world where women no longer suffer from treatable chronic urologic conditions without hope of long-lasting and effective treatments. Gifts like theirs accelerate our ability to realize this vision.”

“D’Andra and Dee’s gift helps to fund graduate students in the lab, to purchase indispensable lab equipment, and to enroll patients into research studies,” Dr. Zimmern said. “I am immensely grateful for this support, more than I can say in words.”

Dee added, “So many women have chronic urologic conditions, and Dr. Zimmern is tired of putting a Band-Aid on these problems. He wants to find answers. D’Andra and I believe his research stands out and will make a difference.”

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Zimmern holds the Felecia and John Cain Chair in Women’s Health, in Honor of Philippe Zimmern, M.D.