UNC Health Talk

Dr. Susan Henning receives AGA’s Distinguished Mentor Award

Monday, May 18, 2015

Susan J. Henning, PhD, AGAF, professor of medicine and cellular & molecular physiology, recently received the Distinguished Mentor Award given by the American Gastroenterological Association. The AGA’s announcement is below:

AGA honors Susan J. Henning, PhD, AGAF, with the first of two Distinguished Mentor Awards, which recognize an individual for his or her achievements as an outstanding mentor over a lifelong career. Dr. Henning is a well-accomplished mentor in the field of gastroenterology, and is an especially wonderful role model for women pursuing basic and translational science careers.

Dr. Henning, who has served as professor of medicine and cell biology and physiology at University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, since 2007, has dedicated her 40-year career in academia to basic GI research and to mentoring trainees at many levels and at many different institutions. Dr. Henning has a passion for training the next generation of GI scientists and physician scientists; helping them grasp their full potential in order to reach their ultimate career goals.

Dr. Henning is a strong advocate for women in science, and is known to host functions for women MD/PhD students from Duke and UNC in her home. Her experience as a dedicated scientist and a devoted mother has resulted in a wealth of practical knowledge that she readily shares with her mentees.

During her time at UNC, Dr. Henning has served as mentor or co-mentor on both postdoctoral and junior faculty awards from NIH. In her previous position at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, she served as director of research training in pediatric gastroenterology. While at Baylor, Dr. Henning’s research training program featured many ideas that were replicated in various training programs across the country, specifically, having a balance of MD and PhD trainees in the program; recruiting basic science mentors to participate in MD research training; use of laboratory rotations for incoming MD fellows to select a suitable and compatible mentor; and the requirement of MD fellows to write a research proposal and defend it to their research advisory committee.

In addition to her mentoring, Dr. Henning maintains a high level of grant support, advocates for trainees at speaking engagements both within and outside UNC, and unselfishly provides travel funds for trainees to present data at scientific conferences and meet prominent scientists in the field. Dr. Henning has authored more than 120 articles and book chapters, many of which have been published in respected journals such as Gastroenterology. Her research contributions were recognized by the AGA in 2008 when she was selected as one of the first group of “Outstanding AGA Women in Science” and by the American Physiological Society in 2009 when she received the prestigious Davenport Award.

Dr. Henning has been an active member of the AGA since 1976 and has served on numerous abstract review committees as well as the AGA Nominating Committee, the AGA Women’s committee and the AGA Council Task force. She was the vice chair of the AGA Growth, Development & Nutrition Section (1999-2001), chair of the Growth Development and Aging section (2001-2003) and served on the AGA Council during both of these terms.

A native of Australia, Dr. Henning completed both her BS degree and PhD degree at the University of Melbourne then pursued post-doctoral studies at Stanford University School of Medicine, CA, and Fels Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA, in pediatrics and biochemistry, respectively. She has held faculty positions at Temple University, University of Houston, Baylor College of Medicine, and UNC at Chapel Hill. Her career has been greatly enhanced by a very supportive husband (Vikram Rao) and three sons (Justin, Colin and Mitchell) who have understood the need to share her time and energy.