Nadia Chaudhri, a neuroscientist who studied drug and alcohol abuse, died on October 5 after a yearlong battle with ovarian cancer. She was 43. In the last year of her life, she became well known for the frank discussion of her declining health while also advocating for ovarian cancer research and fundraising to help underrepresented students further their education.
Chaudhri was born in Karachi, Pakistan. According to the website for The Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award, she came to the United States at the age of 17 to attend Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. After getting her undergraduate biology degree in 1999, she attended the University of Pittsburgh to get her PhD in neuroscience, which she completed in 2005. Then, she did a postdoc at the University of California, San Francisco.
She became an assistant professor at Concordia University in Montreal in 2010 and received tenure as an associate professor in 2014. According to her lab website, the focus of her lab sought to better understand “psychological, neural and molecular processes that contribute to drug and alcohol abuse,” including how those processes relate to relapses of addiction after sobriety. Just last month, Chaudhri became a full professor.
According to her Twitter thread only weeks before she died, Chaudhri began feeling unwell with myriad symptoms in January 2020. She underwent a number of tests and blanket treatments, but it wasn’t until June that she finally received a diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer. She then had surgery and completed six rounds of chemotherapy, but her cancer was resistant to the treatment.
After receiving her prognosis, Chaudhri began using her Twitter account to advocate for better screening protocols and treatments for ovarian cancer. She candidly spoke about her declining health, professed her love for her family, friends, and students, and shared art to celebrate the beauty in the world.
In August, she participated in Concordia’s annual walkathon known as the Shuffle, vowing to walk the halls of the palliative care unit where she was staying. Once she was no longer able to walk, she continued to “shuffle” in her bed. Chaudhri’s final video was posted to Twitter on September 23 as she shuffled next to her friend while listening to “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” She raised well over $600,000 for The Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award, which would provide support for underrepresented students seeking to study neuroscience at Concordia.
Chaudhri is survived by her 6-year-old son and her husband, Moni Orife, whom she frequently referred to as her “Sun and Moon.”
The #ConcordiaShuffle officially takes place tomorrow. Here’s my mini Shuffle-in-place video for you.— Dr. Nadia Chaudhri (@DrNadiaChaudhri) September 23, 2021
Girls just wanna have fun & that’s what my bestie & I are doing ????
Your donations to the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award have blown me away. Words can’t convey my gratitude. 1/n https://t.co/t5MqfJg422 pic.twitter.com/mBwAjrsgIG
Correction (October 8): A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the school from which Chaudhri received her PhD. The Scientist regrets the error.