Dr. Nancy Allen was born Nancy Bates in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1952. She grew up near Richmond, Virginia. In 1970, she received an American Heart Association Grant and worked in the cardiac catheterization lab in [Hunter Holmes] McGuire Hospital in Richmond. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1974 and began medical school at Medical College of Virginia and then transferred to Tufts in Boston. She completed her internship and residency at Duke and joined Duke's faculty in Rheumatology in 1980.
Dr. Allen began advocating for the recognition of women's issues in the Department of Medicine and on the larger campus; she would eventually serve on several committees in this capacity, including as chair as the Women's Committee in the Department of Medicine for twelve years and as a member of the University Committee on Faculty Women. Dr. Allen also served on the search committee for Duke president Richard H. Brodhead and Chancellor for Health Affairs Victor Dzau. A longtime member of the Academic Council at Duke, she chaired the council for three years until 2005. Dr. Allen serves as the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Faculty Development.
Dr. Allen has received a number of awards, including the Eugene A. Stead, Jr. Award for excellence in teaching from the housestaff at Duke (1986), Distinguished Faculty Award from the Duke University Medical Alumni Association (1996), Leonard Palumbo Jr. Faculty Achievement Award from the Duke University School of Medicine (2004) for excellence in clinical care, teaching and mentoring of young physicians. Dr. Allen continues to see patients in her rheumatology practice.