Grateful Family Honors Physician with Presidential Chair in Endocrinology

Diana McNeill, MDAn anonymous $5 million gift has established a Presidential Distinguished Chair Professorship in endocrinology in honor of Diana McNeill, MD.

When you think about the qualities that make a good physician a truly exceptional one, it is clear Diana McNeill, AB'78, MD'82, HS'87-'88, embodies those qualities in spades. A nationally recognized diabetes clinician, she inspires confidence and trust. The respect, kindness, and quality of care she brings her patients are the cornerstones of her clinical practice.  

McNeill was destined to be a physician: her father was an obstetrician-gynecologist, and her mother was a nurse before leaving her career to raise Diana and her seven sisters. McNeill even took first place as an eighth grader in her school’s science fair with a project on diabetes. The topic, chosen by chance, was also prescient.

With a career spanning more than 30 years as a diabetes clinician, there are many patients who are grateful this was the field that caught her attention.

In gratitude, an anonymous $5 million gift from the family of one of those patients has established the Lindquist Presidential Distinguished Chair Professorship in her honor. The professorship will go to a physician-scientist of exceptional eminence in endocrinology within the School of Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition. This is the first endowed professorship in endocrinology and only the third Presidential Distinguished Chair to be established in the School of Medicine.

The donor has requested that, upon McNeill’s retirement or departure from Duke, the chair be named The Lindquist McNeill Presidential Distinguished Chair.

“We are deeply appreciative of this exceptional gift,” said Kathleen Cooney, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine. “The gift of a Presidential Distinguished Chair will help attract a world-class scientist and give them the resources and flexibility needed to make discoveries in endocrinology that will be transformative. I’m delighted that Diana has been honored in this way. She is a tireless patient advocate.”

McNeill said she hopes the gift will lead to a cure for diabetes.  

“It’s the wish that a lot of us have: that the recipient of this chair will be a researcher who shares the passion I have to make this disease more manageable, who will address the health disparities of the disease, and whose work will lead to a cure,” she said.

McNeill received her undergraduate and medical training at Duke, completed her internal medicine residency at the University of Arizona, and then returned to Duke as an endocrinology and metabolism fellow, where she has remained since as a faculty member. She credits her mentors, Bill Yarger, MD, and the late Mark Feinglos, MD, both gifted internists, with inspiring her to focus on internal medicine and hone a patient-centric approach.

McNeill is a gifted educator, mentor, and clinician. She served as program director for the internal medicine residency program for over a decade, mentoring tens of residents and fellows each year. McNeill is also the inaugural director of the Duke Academy for Health Professions Education and Academic Development (Duke AHEAD), a highly regarded faculty development program with over 1,000 members.

As a physician, McNeill’s excellence has been recognized several times. She was elected a master clinician by the American College of Physicians in 2017, and she won the North Carolina diabetes provider of the year award. She is also the recipient of the 2020 Dema C. Daley Founders Award given to a member of the internal medicine community recognized nationally as an educator, innovator, and leader. Most recently, she was awarded the Duke Medical Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award in 2022.

Diabetes is something McNeill knows intimately, and this understanding informs her practice and connects McNeill to her patients’ lived experiences.  

“Living with a chronic condition that has no cure takes a special kind of resilience,” said McNeill. “There is no break with a chronic disease, and with diabetes you have to think about it multiple times a day, every time you eat. But I've always told my patients, you don't have to let it control your life. You can be in charge.” McNeill hopes to give her patients the knowledge and skills to manage their diabetes safely and well.

McNeill said she was overwhelmed and deeply touched by the gift to establish a Presidential Distinguished Chair in her honor.  

“It was extraordinarily meaningful to be honored in this way,” she said. “And I am most humbled by this remarkable recognition by one of my patients who exemplified love of family and friends, and who hoped to help others with diabetes live a full life, as she did so well.”

By Wendy Graber   
May 31, 2023