Barbara McNeil’s HMS diploma bears the signature of Dean Robert Ebert, a physician who stayed at the School’s helm through McNeil’s pediatrics internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, her radiology residency at the former Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and her early years as a junior faculty member at HMS. Then the leadership shifted from Daniel Tosteson ’48 to Joseph Martin to Jeffrey Flier while McNeil moved up the faculty ladder, ultimately becoming the founding chair of the HMS Department of Health Care Policy.
Thus, McNeil has been a vital part of HMS for five decades and a witness to the decanal tenures of four men: Ebert, Tosteson, Martin, and Flier.
And one woman: herself. “Twice,” she adds.
Barbara McNeil ’66, HMS acting dean, is indeed marking the second time she has accepted the call to serve the institution that formed her as a physician-scientist and has benefited from her skills as a leader in research, policy, and education. She will remain acting dean until January 1, 2017, when George Q. Daley ’91 will take office as the twenty-second dean of HMS.
According to McNeil, being an alumna of the School is an important plus for the role she’s taken on.
“I think it’s quite useful for someone who graduated from this school and who has been in this environment as a physician, a researcher, and a teacher to take on its leadership during this time of transition. I know the language of this complex institution, and I know its history for the past half century. I think both can contribute to the needs of this community.”
Community is the key to McNeil’s tenure as acting dean.
“I think it’s critical that faculty at HMS feel closely aligned with the School’s administration, as well as with that of Harvard,” she says. “In fact, I think increasing the involvement of the faculty, their sense of community, and the ease with which they can collaborate, are important tasks for me during the next few months.
“Building and facilitating community for our students is also vital. Students now learn in settings that depend on collaboration and exchange. If I can help that sense of community, that sense of bonding, to increase, I will feel my months as acting dean will have contributed to the School’s continued vitality.”
Above everything, McNeil is pleased to once again have the privilege of guiding the school that guided her professional development. “We are fortunate to be able to pursue our work at this remarkable institution,” says McNeil. “I’m honored to have this opportunity to serve the faculty, students, and staff of HMS.”
Image: John Soares