Nadia Chaudhri, Scientist With an End-of-Life Mission, Dies at 43


Nadia Chaudhri, a neuroscientist with terminal ovarian cancer who used her final months to raise money for graduate students of diverse backgrounds and to educate the public about her disease through a widely followed social media chronicle, died on Oct. 5 at a hospital in Montreal. She was 43.

Her husband, Moni Orife, confirmed her death.

Dr. Chaudhri, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, was in palliative care at Royal Victoria Hospital when she wrote on Twitter in August that she would be embarking on a walk-a-thon: pacing her hospital floor each day in a fund-raising appeal for minority, female, L.G.B.T.Q. and other students from underrepresented backgrounds who are pursuing scientific research at the university. Her own research centered on the neural basis of drug and alcohol addiction.


Her campaign raised funds for the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award, which was established in her honor and announced by Concordia in May. She had previously raised money with a GoFundMe campaign to sponsor students from diverse backgrounds to attend the annual conference of the nonprofit Research Society on Alcoholism.

In the announcement of the award, Dr. Chaudhri recalled the discrimination she had experienced as a Pakistani woman in graduate school. “When I gave talks or presentations, people often commented on my accent instead of my science,” she said.

Through her walk-a-thon and her large and active Twitter following, the fund surpassed $635,000 in mid-October. Paul Chesser, the university’s vice president for fund-raising, said small donors had led the way: nearly 9,000 from 60 countries, forming a rare grass roots effort in institutional fund-raising.

“Nadia’s legacy is forever entrenched in many, many ways here on campus,” Mr. Chesser said.

Her Twitter feed drew more than 150,000 followers and was the backbone of her money-raising efforts. Many of her followers said they were inspired by her frankness about her illness and cited her bravery.


“I’ve been so moved by your story, Nadia, and your kindness and spirit are just something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in such abundance before,” one Twitter user wrote. “I will carry you in my heart for as long as I live.”

Dr. Chaudhri, in turn, connected closely with her Twitter following. Addressing donors, she wrote, “You are making my final days incredibly special & meaningful.”

In May she wrote of how she was preparing to tell her 6-year-old son about her terminal diagnosis. “Today is the day I tell my son that I’m dying from cancer,” she said. “Let me howl with grief now so that I can comfort him.”

Dr. Chaudhri produced creative work while in the hospital. She sent some donors copies of a short story she wrote about growing up in Karachi, Pakistan. She painted, posting vibrant artwork depicting flowers and nature scenes, some inspired by pictures her followers had sent her and some featuring her husband and son.

She also used her Twitter platform to call for more research into ovarian cancer. “The bottom line is that ovarian cancer research is underfunded,” she wrote in September. “We also need more awareness of symptoms because early detection improves prognosis dramatically.”


Dr. Chaudhri urged women to pay attention to their health. “Do not dismiss your pain or malaise,” she wrote in one thread recounting her diagnosis. “Find the expert doctors.”

She was found to have ovarian cancer in May 2020. The cancer resisted treatment, she said, and she was admitted to palliative care in August this year.

Nadia Chaudhri was born in Karachi on Jan. 25, 1978. Her mother, Susan (Metcalf) Chaudhri, was an occupational therapist. Her father, Abdul Shakoor Chaudhri, was an orthopedic surgeon.

Nadia attended Karachi Grammar School in Pakistan. She went to the United States for college, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in the biological foundations of behavior from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania in 1999. She was the first woman to win the college’s Williamson Medal for academic and extracurricular achievement.

She attended the University of Pittsburgh and received a Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2005, writing her thesis on the science of cigarette addiction. She had a postdoctoral fellowship from 2005 to 2009 at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco.


She married Mr. Orife in 2009. Their son, Reza Orife, was born in 2015. In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by her mother and her sister, Amina.

Dr. Chaudhri joined the Concordia University faculty in 2010 as an assistant professor in the department of psychology and was placed at the head of her own lab. She earned tenure as an associate professor in 2014. Less than a month before she died, Concordia promoted her to full professor.

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