Neuroscientist Nadia Chaudhri, who was admitted to the palliative care ward at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in late August with end-stage ovarian cancer, could be excused for wanting to focus on herself.
Instead, the 43-year-old has spent the last few weeks fundraising for the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award after pledging to walk the length of the ward every day for as long as she could.
The money will go towards endowing a recurring fellowship to support underrepresented students in the field of neuroscience at Concordia University where Chaudhri has been a faculty member since 2010.
“One of the things that Nadia is most notable for in the department is her recognition that students from certain backgrounds, whether it be based on gender or race or country of origin, may face barriers that other students don’t face,” said colleague and friend Kristen Dunfield, an associate professor in the department of psychology.
“And so because she’s not going to be here to do the hands-on mentoring herself, it sort of it cements her legacy as a champion of these students.”
Chaudri’s fundraising efforts are part of the university’s annual walk-a-thon, known as the shuffle.
And while Chaudhri no longer has the strength to walk, it hasn’t gotten in the way of her fundraising.
On Thursday, Chaudhri posted a short video of herself on Twitter where she’s smiling and “shuffling” in her hospital bed to the tune of Girls Just Want To Have Fun.
“I think it just speaks to her ingenuity and commitment to these students that at this point she’s shuffling from her bed,” Dunfield said.
Chaudhri’s efforts have paid off.
On Friday, the Wingspan Award surpassed its goal raising more than $500,000 earning Chaudhri the title of shuffler of the year.
It’s only one of the many accolades Chaudhri has received in the past weeks. She was promoted to full professor on Sept. 9 based on her research profile after colleagues helped submit her dossier.
“Professor Nadia Chaudhri has such a beautiful ring to it! I feel like I have arrived!,” Chaudhri wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for making my academic dream a reality.”
Dunfield also announced that Chaudhri will be awarded the Medal of the National Assembly after being nominated by Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone. The medal is awarded by members of the National Assembly to citizens who are deserving of recognition.
Chaudrhi is no longer giving interviews, preferring to focus her remaining energy on her husband and six-year-old son, whom she refers to as her moon and sun.
She continues, however, to document her journey on Twitter where she shares moments of vulnerability and joy, inspiring thousands of people along the way.
“Nadia turned that conversation on its head and said, like, warts and all, this is what I’m going through. And I’m still finding these moments of happiness, those moments of beauty,” Dunfield said of her Twitter feed.
Chaudhri has also used her large social media following as an opportunity to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and the importance of advocating for yourself.
“I’m extremely grateful to Nadia that in the midst of her suffering, she has promoted this message that the best thing for ovarian cancer is early detection,” said Dr. Lucy Gilbert, director of gynaecologic oncology at the MUHC.
Chaudhri is leaving a lasting impact on followers she’s never even met, as well as those lucky enough to call her a mentor and friend.
“She is one of the most spectacular people I have had the good fortune of knowing,” Dunfield said.