Dr Rod Allen - cordon bleu chef certificate

1. Dr Rod is a Cordon Bleu chef!

All Medical students are required to do “elective” terms. They can choose just about anything they like. Dr Rod really wanted to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to learn to cook. Now, how to turn that into an “elective”?

There is a phenomenon known as “The French Paradox”. The French consume a lot of saturated fats and yet they don’t seem to have the same rates of heart disease as other countries where a lot of saturated fats are eaten. This is generally thought to be due to the fact that they also follow a Mediterranean diet. They don’t eat as much processed food, they do eat more vegetables, olive oil and, of course, they enjoy a glass of red wine. But Dr Rod hypothesised that there could also be something to be found in the way the French actually cook their food. Et voila!  The University approved his “elective” to enrol in Le Cordon Bleu to investigate “The French Paradox”. While he doesn’t get to use his culinary skills too often he still loves whipping up an elaborate French dish or two.

Dr Rod at Weddel Sea

2. Dr Rod was the first person to swim in the Weddel Sea. Ever!

On the 9th January 1995 Captain Skog decided to conduct a man overboard drill. The ship, MS Explorer, was in St Andrew’s Bay on South Georgia. Dr Rod volunteered to be the victim. He was dressed up in a dry suit, taken out in a Zodiac and “thrown overboard”. The Zodiac returned to the ship.  A “Man Overboard” alarm was sounded, the crew scrambled and Dr Rod was “rescued”. The Ship’s Doctor went through the drill of ”resuscitating” him.

On his next stint in Antarctica, in January 1997 the Explorer found itself in the Weddell Sea. An extremely cold part of the world. With his “volunteer” on board Captain Leif Skog decided to repeat the MOB drill. Only this time he wanted to simulate an entire Zodiac spilling into the sea. So 6 crew members suited up. Dr Rod was actually the first one overboard and the last one “rescued”. Captain Skog recorded it as the first ever MOB drill on the Weddell Sea.  So Dr Rod is the first person ever to go swimming in the Weddell Sea and live to tell the tale.

Dr Rod Allen at Devil's Island Mountain, Antarctica.

3. Dr Rod was the first person to climb the Devil’s Island mountain in Antarctica.

In 1995/96 Dr Rod served on board the MS Explorer as Assistant Ship’s Doctor during 6 expeditions to Antarctica. He enjoyed it so much he went back in 1996/97 for 3 more expeditions. This was a fabulous experience  with countless amazing memories.  There were two “firsts” during these voyages. Dr Rod was the first person to climb the Western peak of Devil Island and he was one of the first people to “swim” in the Weddell  sea.

On the 7th January 1996 the ship landed at Devil Island in the Erebus and Terror Gulf. Dr Rod led a party up the Western peak.  It appears that the island was surveyed by a British navy expedition in 1945. They noted a large penguin colony. There was no record that they ever landed on the island. Captain Leif Skog recorded this landing on the island as probably the first ever landing ashore. Dr Rod is therefore the first person to ever climb the Western peak of Devil Island. The ship returned there 6 days later and so he was able to witness the amazing transformation as the ice melted and the Adelie penguin chicks hatched and grew.

Dr Rod Allen, Red Cross blood donation

4. Dr Rod has made 187 blood donations

Dr Rod has made 187 donations at the Red Cross Blood Bank. He was well on his way to joining the elite 300 club when the Red Cross introduced a ban on donors who had lived in the UK in the 80’s, during the “mad cow” scare. He started when he was 18 and regularly donated whole blood for a while. Then he found out how important it was to donate plasma. He would receive boosters of tetanus that would force his body into overdrive making tetanus antibodies. They would take his plasma and extract all the Tetanus anti-bodies, concentrate them, and then use that as a treatment for people who were exposed to tetanus.

But probably the most rewarding thing he did was get involved in the platelet donation program. Platelets are tiny little parts of the blood that help the blood to clot.  When a child is having chemotherapy or radiotherapy for Leukaemia their bone marrow is annihilated to kill all the cancer cells. Unfortunately it also kills the cells that make all the healthy components of the blood. One of the hardest things to replace is the platelets. So, when a child is slated for full therapy they used to pair him up with a specific donor. The donor would have to commit to 3 hour sessions weekly for 2 months. The donor never knew any details about the recipient but just the feeling that you were specifically helping out one child was hugely satisfying. Dr Rod was privileged to be asked to do this 3 times.

Dr Rod Allen at Berlin Wall.

5. Dr Rod was there when the Berlin Wall came down – in fact he helped knock it down!

On the 9th of November 1989 the border between East and West Germany was opened. This marked the beginning of the end of the Berlin Wall. Dr Rod was working in London at the time and immediately arranged a flight to Berlin to be part of this historic event. He crossed through into East Berlin at the famous Checkpoint Charlie and saw East Berlin before it was opened up properly. Hammers and chisels were hard to find but he managed to buy a Tomahawk and a chisel and went to the wall at the Brandenburg Gate to help bring down this symbol of oppression. He brought several pieces of the Wall home.

Dr Rod Allen has joined Queensland Festival Choir.

6. Dr Rod has joined a choir

Dr Rod has always loved to sing – in the car, in the shower etc, and now he has decided to pursue this passion by starting singing lessons. His vocal coach suggested he should broaden his performance venues outside the bathroom and car and he has now joined the Queensland Festival Chorus. His first public gig was at QPAC for the Queensland Pops Orchestra’s 30th Anniversary concert on 17th May 2014. And not forgetting his day job he managed to pop back to perform surgery at the Mater theatre between the matinee and the evening performances at QPAC!