Dr. Margaret Allen received her MD from the University of California, San Diego. Following general surgical residency, she spent one year as a cardiac surgery fellow at King’s College Hospital, London, and then one year as a general surgeon in rural Papua-New Guinea. During her cardiothoracic surgical residency at Stanford University, under heart transplant pioneer, Dr. Norman Shumway, she became the first woman in the US to perform a heart transplant.
In 1985, she joined the cardiothoracic surgical faculty at the University of Washington. There, she founded the first heart transplant program in the Pacific Northwest, serving five states, which she directed for 11 years. She rose to the rank of full professor in 1998.
As an early member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the national transplant network, Dr. Allen helped inaugurate regional organ sharing for heart transplantation. She later served 6 years on the UNOS Board of Directors, and, in 1994, was elected UNOS President, the first woman and thoracic surgeon in this position. Locally, she founded an NIH-funded program to increase awareness of organ donation and transplantation among Asian American, African American, and Alaska Native communities in Washington and Alaska, in conjunction with the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
In 2000, Dr. Allen turned her focus to basic science research, enticed by the prospect that the emerging field of tissue engineering would lead to new therapies for heart disease. As a Research Member of the Benaroya Research Institute, her current work utilizes tissue engineering, stem cells, and autologous cardiomyocytes for repair and regeneration of cardiac muscle so that the heart might recover function after myocardial infarction. These techniques are now also being extended to the repair and restoration of skeletal muscle for treatment of major traumatic injuries