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Faust Names Interim Chief for HMS

Facing deadline, president-elect turns to veteran prof while search for permanent head continues

By Paras D. Bhayani, Crimson Staff Writer

Barbara J. McNeil, a veteran health care policy professor, will serve as the acting dean of Harvard Medical School (HMS), President-elect Drew G. Faust announced on Friday.

McNeil will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Dean Joseph B. Martin, whose decade leading one of Harvard's largest schools comes to a close at the end of this month.

McNeil, a 1966 graduate of the Medical School, has served in a variety of administrative posts since coming to HMS in 1974. She was the founding chair of the Department of Health Care Policy and has served on the school's faculty council. She is also a member of the faculty committee advising Faust in her search for a permanent leader of the school.

"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," Faust said in a statement.

McNeil's research focuses on medical technology, with an emphasis in radiology and quality of care.

McNeil's appointment comes after Faust seriously considered at least one outsider for the job, Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Elizabeth G. Nabel, who flew to Cambridge late last month for meetings related to her candidacy.

The Boston Globe reported last month that Faust was close to making an appointment, and it listed Nabel and Reisman Professor of Medicine Jeffrey S. Flier as top candidates for the job. However, according to the statement, Faust determined that it "did not appear feasible" to appoint a permanent leader for the school so close to July 1, when the new dean would have to take over.

"We have made good progress in the search for a new dean and identified some very promising candidates," Faust said in the statement.

James H. Thrall, Taveras professor of radiology and a member of the committee advising Faust, said that though it "would be terrific to have a new dean by [June 30] to promote continuity," choosing a permanent dean by that deadline would have been "a challenge."

He said that an ideal dean would have a record of "academic accomplishment, personal integrity, an ability to communicate, [and] gravitas."

The other members of the faculty committee were not available for comment on Friday, and McNeil was unavailable for comment. It was unclear how long McNeil would serve in her role as acting dean.

McNeil is the third dean Faust has appointed in less than a month. With about three weeks to go until she takes office, Faust must still find a dean for the Graduate School of Design, hire a vice president for alumni affairs and development, and help select the next leader of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She is also looking to fill a new executive vice president position.

Faust previously appointed computer scientists Michael D. Smith and Barbara J. Grosz to the deanships of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Radcliffe Institute, respectively. Smith is the only permanent dean named to date, leaving open the possibility that the University could find itself with three interim deans next year if Faust is unable to find permanent leaders in time.

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at

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