Getting to know John and Gwen Allen

Relationship: Father and Daughter

John & Gwen Allen  - family time at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Gwendolyn (Gwen) Eve AllenJohn Carson Allen

Designation: Business Manager
Center for Technology & Development
(wef 3 March 2014)
Previous role: Business Manager
Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders Program
Nationality: American
Time in Singapore: 1 year and 6 months

Designation: Assistant Professor
Office of Clinical Sciences/
Centre for Quantitative Medicine  
Nationality: American
Time in Singapore:  4 years and 6 months 
Recipient of the AM•EI Golden Apple Awards 2013
(Research Category)

The Insider (TI):  So who joined Duke-NUS first and how did you end up in your respective roles? 

John Allen (JA): I joined Duke-NUS first - July 31, 2009 to be exact. I came in as a biostatistician quantitative mentor to 3rd year medical students engaged in clinical research. I was hired by our former Vice Dean of Clinical Sciences Prof. John Rush who formerly had been retained as an expert consultant to the company where I was employed in the US. John was our chief advocate with FDA, and was instrumental in gaining approval for an implantable medical device indicated for treating severe clinical depression. 

Gwen (GA): My dad joined first. I visited him for three weeks after finishing my Master’s degree in the US. When I arrived here, I liked it so much that I didn’t use my return ticket back. I started teaching English at a language school on Orchard Rd for a month and a half before my Dad told me of an opening for a Business Manager at Duke-NUS. Prof. Shirish Shenolikar and Prof. Tom Coffman took a chance on me and here I am!

Gwen and Shirish catching up on work

TI: Gwen, We understand that you are a communications major. How has the shift to Research been for you?

GA: I’ve worked in academia (University of Utah, University of Utah Medical Center, Columbia College Chicago) my entire adult life (so far), so I’m familiar with research. However, I’ve never worked with laboratory researchers. When I arrived at Duke-NUS I was in awe as I started to learn about the projects of our Principal Investigators (PIs). What I love most about journalism is the constant variation and learning of interesting things from people who are willing to tell their stories… and then I want to share it with everyone - to say “Hey everybody, check out the cool stuff CVMD is doing!” As a Business Manager, I can’t do this in the same way, but it motivates me to do whatever is needed so they can continue their research… and to tell their stories.  

TI: John, please share with us your typical work day at Duke-NUS.  What are the most rewarding aspects of your role as a professor?  

JA: A typical day would involve project mentoring sessions with our 3rd year students (MS3s), meetings with SingHealth collaborators or project analyses, working on manuscripts or grant applications. The most rewarding aspect of my job is the opportunity and privilege to work with truly remarkable and wonderful people—3rd year students, colleagues and collaborative researchers from the various SingHealth institutions and KKH—and the satisfaction that comes from worthwhile accomplishments. 

John is really popular with the students! 

TI: Professional Confuct is one of the Schools' values. Share with us an encounter where you have seen this value being exemplified at work.

JA: A most notable and gratifying manifestation of professionalism in the Offices of Clinical Sciences is the esprit de corps—the common spirit of loyalty, enthusiasm and devotion to cause - that exists among faculty and staff.  I observe in all a spirit of good will, selflessness, generosity and mutual support. 

There are many. To pick one: I’ve always been impressed with our Sponsored Research Dept. In all my encounters with them they have been consistently responsive, helpful, knowledgeable and proactive. I feel more confident in my work when I know I have good support. Hazel in HR is pretty awesome too.  

TI: How similar or different are you at work and home?

JA:  I haven’t observed Gwen at work, so I don’t know. At home she is a very ‘filial’ daughter - generous, thoughtful, kind, a great comfort and help. When it is just the two of us (wife in US), Gwen takes care of everything - shopping, cooking, housekeeping…. She is meticulous in her work and maintains a high standard of cleanliness. I am not allowed to do dishes, sweep, clean or do laundry (sob, sob) because I am not trustworthy in my housekeeping standards. 

GA: I think my dad is the same at home as he is at work for the simple reason that he comes home from work, to work. The only difference is that he’s served dinner. He loves his work, so perhaps it is understandable that it is also his hobby at home.

TI: I am thankful for…

JA: My wife, who takes care of me when she is in Singapore and Gwen, who takes care of me when my wife is not in Singapore...and even at times when my wife is in Singapore. 

Meet Mrs Linda Allen!

TI: The 3 adjectives that best describe John? 

GA: My dad is a Dog in the Chinese Zodiac and fits these characteristics well. To name three that best describe him:

TI: I wouldn’t trade places for the world because…

I am blessed with a wonderful wife and family, and consider myself very fortunate to be here in Singapore at Duke-NUS. 

I already feel like I have the world (corny, I know, but true!)

On a vacation with the extended family in Utah, US. Can you spot John and Gwen?