Stars of Stanford Medicine

Heather Kenna


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Heather Kenna, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, manages faculty affairs for the super heroes of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

There’s a Wonder Woman postcard pinned to the bulletin board in Heather Kenna’s office. On the back, a handwritten note says, “Heather, you are awesome. Thank you for your excellent work, but also for standing with me.” It’s from Laura Roberts, MD, the chair of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department.

As director of faculty affairs and strategic planning, Heather manages the details, large and small, associated with the department’s continuing expansion in research, education, community outreach and clinical care innovation. She’s supported fundraising efforts for the department, as well as programs to improve clinic excellence and the wellbeing of faculty and staff. She also serves as a peer mentor and has contributed to process improvement initiatives at the School of Medicine.

Heather supervises the team of eleven staff members to keep the department running smoothly. Two faculty affairs associates help her coordinate the faculty affairs of the department’s 561 professoriate faculty, clinical educators, affiliates, adjunct faculty, visiting faculty, scholars, post docs, and lecturers. Together, they manage the timely processing of all faculty searches, appointments, reappointments, promotions and tenure reviews. There are also five medical education managers and coordinators, as well as 4 research analysts and coordinators in the department’s Roberts Ethics Laboratory.

“Heather does an amazing job in her faculty affairs role, with a 100% on-time performance for faculty actions for at least 5 years running,” said Brian Donnellan, associate chair of finance and operations.

On any given day, Heather juggles multiple projects, from compiling metrics on scholarly programs and clinical care, to planning faculty training workshops, to troubleshooting complications related to faculty appointments or hospital privileges. When she heard that her adjunct clinical faculty would lose their hospital privileges because the medical records system wasn’t able to easily track their consultations on patient cases, she built a custom patient-encounter survey in Qualtrics to capture this data for division chiefs to review and sign-off.

While her job is challenging under the best of circumstances, what sets her apart is her can-do attitude.

“I’ll do anything for my team. I’ll respond at 11 o’clock at night. If someone is out sick, I’ll set up the slide projector. I try to be very dedicated,” said Heather.

Dr. Roberts added, “Heather is truly exceptional — her professionalism and conscientiousness are gifts to the Stanford community.”

Heather fell in love with the psychology and neuroscience after taking an introductory undergraduate psychology class at San Francisco State University. She went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and chemistry, then two Master’s degrees, one in social psychology and the other clinical psychology. Even though she’s an internship away from receiving a PhD, she’s putting this on hold for now, mostly because she loves her current job so much.

“I’m passionate about mental health and I’m very proud to be working at Stanford,” said Kenna. “I feel very lucky to work at such an amazing institution.”   

Story and photos by Kris Newby.