Wendy A. Henderson, PhD, Appointed a Presidential Distinguished Professor
Wendy A. Henderson, PhD, CRNP, FAASLD, FAAN, has been appointed the Gail and Ralph Reynolds President’s Distinguished Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and will serve as a faculty member in Penn Nursing’s Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences. She joins Penn Nursing from the University of Connecticut where she held a joint appointment as Professor in the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine. Henderson most recently served as director of the PhD program at the School of Nursing and before that was director of the school’s Center of Nursing Scholarship and Innovation. Henderson was previously a clinical investigator and lab chief of the National Institute of Nursing Research, Digestive Disorders Unit, Division of Intramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the American Association for the Study of Liver DiseasesJanuary 24, 2024
Henderson earned both her BSN (1994) and her MSN (1999) from University of Pittsburgh, where she also completed a patient safety fellowship, through the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. In 1999, Henderson became a certified registered nurse practitioner, her subspecialty is pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition. In 2007, Henderson obtained her PhD in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, where she was also a clinical and translational science institute fellow. That same year, she joined the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR, NIH) as a postdoctoral researcher and staff scientist conducting research on the immuno-genetic mechanisms involved in symptom distress related to digestive and liver diseases.
Henderson was appointed as an assistant clinical investigator in 2009 and then joined the NINR tenure-track faculty in the NIH Division of Intramural Research in 2011. She served for ten years as a clinical investigator and lab chief at NINR, NIH. Her interest in symptomatology in patients with gastrointestinal and liver disorders stems from her clinical and research experience at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Pediatric Gastroenterology Department, where she served as a faculty member and nurse practitioner. She served as a member of the Women Scientist Advisors Committee and the Intramural Program of Research on Women’s Health Steering Committee. She also served as NINR’s NIH Liaison for the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act and as a pediatric gastrointestinal clinical consultant at the NIH Clinical Center.
As a primary investigator on multiple studies at the NIH, Henderson researched brain–gut-liver microbiota axis and chronic effects of stress on intestinal health across the lifespan. She co-developed the Gastrointestinal Pain Pointer technology to provide clinicians with a more integrated tool for GI symptom assessment—one that includes location, intensity, quality, and physiologic parameters. Through a brain-gut natural history study, Henderson’s team also assesses brain-gut-liver interactions in normal weight and overweight persons with chronic abdominal pain of unknown origin.
Henderson co-invented multiple patents involved in nucleic acid detection and signatures of genetic control in digestive and liver disorders. One recent patented methodology tests stool rapidly at the point-of-need for infectious pathogens, which won the American Gastroenterological Association Tech Summit’s Shark Tank competition. She also invented a computerized face scale assessment, the Show-n-Tell, that quantifies the degree of pain symptoms in children.
Henderson has authored or co-authored more than 100 publications and her and her mentees research has been funded by many national and international organizations including but not limited to the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH Office of Workforce Diversity, NIAID, NCI, NIMHD, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, McNamara Foundation, and Sigma Theta Tau International. She has received many honors throughout her career including the 2019 Founders Award from the International Society of Nurses in Genomics; the 2018 American Gastroenterological Association Future Leader; and the NINR’s Director Awards for Diversity (2019), Leadership (2014); and Innovation (2010).