When Dr. Nancy Allen came to Duke in 1978 for a medical internship and residency, she did not intend to stay long.
"I expected to be here three to five years," she said.
Instead, she stayed around, beginning a long and distinguished career as a faculty member and administrator. Last spring, Academic Council members elected her as their next chair, an honor that reflects the esteem she has earned from her peers in the faculty.
"She commands a great deal of respect," said Michele Longino, a member of the eight-person Executive Committee of Academic Council, which meets bi-weekly and directs the agenda of the council. "She has a long track record of service to the University."
Much of Academic Council's activity originates in the confidential meetings of ECAC, so upcoming topics are frequently kept private until the entire council meets.
Allen indicated that this year the council will address female and black faculty recruitment, faculty retirement and a Faculty Compensation Committee report on salary equity. She added, however, that she has yet to set a definite agenda for the upcoming year.
"We kind of let it unfurl as time goes on," she said.
A native of Richmond, Va., Allen earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Wellesley College in 1974. After graduating from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1978, she came to Duke. She specialized in rheumatology and became a member of the faculty in 1982.
Since then, she has served on a host of administrative committees, including a total of 12 years on Academic Council and two terms on ECAC.
Of all her contributions to the University, Allen said she is most proud of her work on professional development for female faculty members. She played a major role in 1993 in organizing the first Clinical Sciences Faculty Council, the faculty governing body of the Medical Center.
As the CSFC's first chair, Allen advocated women's issues such as salary equity, maternity leave and a welcoming atmosphere for women within the clinical sciences departments.
She is serving on President Nan Keohane's task force on women at the University, and she led the Women's Committee at the Medical Center, where she advised the department chairs on issues regarding women and residents.
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"We've hopefully moved beyond the time where it's a real big deal," she said. "[But] it's important for students and young faculty to see women in important roles."
Allen is also the first member of the clinical sciences faculty to be elected chair of the Academic Council.
In remarks to the Board of Trustees, former chair of the Academic Council Peter Burian said Allen's experience in the Medical Center may be put to great use.
"At a time when the sheer size of the [Duke University] Health System and the increasingly difficult fiscal climate for health care in this country threaten to drive deepening wedges between what we rather cavalierly refer to as 'the campus' and the Medical Center, Nancy has a wonderful opportunityâ??and challengeâ??as a builder of bridges," he said. "I cannot think of anyone better qualified for that role than Nancy Allen."
Her fondest love remains the clinical care that initially brought her to Duke almost 25 years ago. Although she has been forced to cut back somewhat as she has assumed more administrative duties, she still sees patients regularly.
As for where she sees herself in 10 years, Allen smiles. "At Duke," she said. "Practicing medicine and teaching."