Acting dean for Medical School

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Barbara McNeil, health policy expert and longtime faculty member, to serve in interim role

Barbara J. McNeil, the Ridley Watts Professor of Health Care Policy and professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS), has been named acting dean of the Faculty of Medicine, effective Aug. 1, President Drew Faust and Provost Alan Garber announced today.

A member of the HMS faculty since 1983 and founding chair of the HMS department of health care policy since 1988, McNeil will assume the post once Dean Jeffrey S. Flier steps down on July 31. McNeil also was acting dean in the summer of 2007, shortly before Flier took office.

“Barbara [McNeil] is one of Harvard Medical School’s most able and experienced leaders, scholars, educators, and institutional citizens,” said Faust and Garber in a message announcing the appointment. “We are fortunate to have someone of her wisdom, perspective, experience, and strong institutional values to guide HMS through this interim period.”

“Harvard Medical School is one of the world’s great centers of medical education and biomedical research, and I’ve been privileged to call it my professional home for decades,” said McNeil. “I am pleased to help guide the School through this period of transition, and I look forward to working with colleagues across the Harvard medical community as well as with President Faust and Provost Garber.”

McNeil holds a bachelor’s degree from Emmanuel College and received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She did her internship in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, received her Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Harvard, and did her residency in radiology at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Starting in 1974, she progressed through the HMS faculty ranks as an instructor, assistant professor, and then associate professor of radiology before being named full professor in 1983, with appointments in radiology and clinical epidemiology. In 1987 she was also named a professor in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and 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, which she has chaired ever since.

McNeil’s research has focused largely on identifying the most appropriate, effective, and highest-quality medical technologies and imaging procedures for patients. She 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. Having long maintained a strong presence in both the HMS Quadrangle and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, she is renowned for her work in radiology, technology analysis, quality of care, and patient outcomes.

“I have known, admired, and worked with Barbara for many years, and she is a leader with a proven track record and a deep knowledge and appreciation of the HMS ecosystem,” said Flier. “The school will be in excellent hands.”

Over the decades, McNeil has served on advisory councils for a wide array of public and private biomedical organizations. She currently serves in key roles for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the Boston Foundation for Sight, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, among others. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of Nuclear Medicine, and the American College of Radiology, among other professional societies.

Long a prominent presence in the academic leadership of HMS, she also has served on a wide range of HMS and University committees over the years, including two decades on the HMS faculty council and service on such bodies as the HMS faculty advisory committee on administration and management, the medical education reform executive committee, the board of advisors to the M.D.-Ph.D. program, the steering committee for the M.D.-M.B.A. program, the executive committee for the new HMS department of biomedical informatics, and the advisory committee for Harvard University Health Services.

In their message, Faust and Garber said that the search for a new dean of the Faculty of Medicine is progressing well.