Campus & Community

Barbara J. McNeil named acting dean of Harvard Medical School

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Barbara J. McNeil, the Ridley Watts Professor of Health Care Policy and Professor of Radiology, has been named acting dean of the Harvard Medical School effective July 1, President-elect Drew Faust announced today.

As a member of the School faculty since 1983 and founder and current chair of the department of health care policy at HMS, McNeil will take on the role of acting dean once Dean Joseph B. Martin steps down on June 30.

“We are very fortunate to have someone of Dr. McNeil’s experience, sharp intellect, and commitment to Harvard’s institutional values to lead during this important time of transition,” said Faust. “Barbara is intimately familiar with the Harvard community since her days in medical school and is widely admired both within and beyond the HMS community. I am confident that she will guide the school effectively in this interim role.”

“Barbara McNeil is a thoughtful and effective leader,” added Provost Steven Hyman. “I am deeply grateful for her willingness to take on this role.”

“Harvard Medical School is an exceptional institution and has made tremendous contributions in research and education and with its teaching hospitals in patient care as well,” said McNeil. “I am pleased to serve in this period of transition and look forward to working with members of the HMS faculty as well as with President Faust and Provost Hyman.”

“We have made good progress in the search for a new dean and identified some very promising candidates,” said Faust, who added that it did not now appear feasible for a permanent dean to be appointed and take up his or her duties before July 1, when Martin steps down.

McNeil holds a bachelor’s degree from Emmanuel College (chemistry, 1962) and received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1966. She spent the following year completing an internship in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In 1967 McNeil won a research fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, working as an NIH fellow in the Biophysics Research Laboratory at Harvard until 1971. She earned a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Harvard in 1972. From 1971 to 1973 she also served as a resident in radiology at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and as a clinical fellow in radiology at Harvard Medical School.

In 1974 she began the first of a long series of hospital and academic appointments in the Harvard Medical School system, as instructor in radiology at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and radiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She devoted much of her research to the study of new medical technologies and was one of the first physicians to apply the techniques of decision analysis and cost effectiveness analysis to the study of new imaging technologies. In 1989 she founded the Radiology Diagnostic Imaging Group, the first government-sponsored initiative of its kind.

In 1983 she was made full professor in clinical epidemiology and radiology at Harvard Medical School, and in 1987 she was also named professor of health sciences and technology in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. Her interest in the quality and costs of patient care led, in 1988, to the founding of HMS’s department of health care policy, of which she was appointed head.

McNeil’s research has focused largely on identifying the most appropriate, effective, and highest quality medical technologies and imaging procedures for patients. She is renowned for her work in radiology, technology analysis, quality of care, and patient outcomes.

“Barbara has a proven track record as a leader in our medical community and HMS is fortunate to be able to turn to her in this time of transition,” said Dr. Joseph B. Martin, dean of Harvard Medical School.

McNeil has served on several editorial advisory boards as well as on the publications committee of the New England Journal of Medicine. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of Nuclear Medicine, and the American College of Radiology.

She has served on numerous committees at Harvard Medical School, including the Board of Advisors to the M.D.-Ph.D. program at Harvard from 1975 to 1985, the Faculty Council at HMS from 1985 to 2005, the Medical Education Reform Executive Committee since 2004, and the Faculty Advisory Committee on Administration and Management (Chair) since 2004. Nationally, she currently serves on the Medical Advisory Committee for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association as well as on the Science Board of the Food and Drug Administration and its subcommittee to review FDA science.