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Dr. Barbara J. McNeil

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1941

Medical School

Harvard Medical School



Career Path

Diagnostic and therapeutic services: Radiology
Pediatric medicine
Dr. Barbara J. McNeil


Dr. Barbara J. McNeil was the founding head of the department of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.


Dr. Barbara McNeil founded the department of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and was the first person to be appointed head of the department. As well as academic and clinical appointments in radiology, she has published a series of papers in the area of decision analysis and patients' preferences which are amongst the most cited studies in the field.

Barbara Joyce McNeil was born in 1941 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She studied chemistry as an undergraduate at Emmanuel College, graduating in 1962. That same year she enrolled at Harvard Medical School. McNeil graduated with a doctor of medicine degree in 1966 and spent the next year completing an internship in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In 1967 Dr. 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. This work earned her a doctorate in biological chemistry in 1972, from Harvard University. From 1971 to 1973 she also served as a resident in radiology at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children's Hospital Medical Center, and 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. She has led several large studies which compared the accuracy of different technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging versus computed tomography, and in 1989 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 at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has become increasingly interested in the quality of patient care, and in 1988, Dr. McNeil founded the department of health care policy at Harvard and was appointed head of the department.

Dr. McNeil has served on the editorial advisory board of Bibliography of Ethics, Nuclear Medicine Communications, Medical Decision Making, Journal of Nuclear Medicine, and the Journal of Health Care Technology. She is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Nuclear Medicine, and the American College of Radiology.

Dr. McNeil has served on numerous committees at Harvard Medical School and at nationally, including membership of the board of advisors to the M.D.-Ph.D. program at Harvard from 1975 to 1985, and serving on the Radiopharmaceutical Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration. In 1995 Dr. McNeil received the Presidential Award of the American College of Nuclear Physicians.