Neuroscientist Nadia Chaudhri spent the last few months of her life informing the public about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, pushing for more research funding and raising money for graduate students from underrepresented populations pursuing science at Concordia University, where Chaudri was a professor. Chaudhri, who died Oct. 5 at 43 years old, walked back and forth across her hospital room to raise funds for the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award, bringing in $635,000, primarily from nearly 9,000 donors from 60 countries.
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Prominent French microbiologist Didier Raoult and collaborator Eric Chabriere disparaged scientist Elisabeth Bik on social media and in the press after she spotted and called out inconsistent data in a paper on hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 Raoult co-authored, and in April the two filed a criminal complaint against Bik and revealed her home address in a tweet. Other scientists whose work Bik has criticized have piled on, and she says the lawsuit has had a chilling effect on science watchdogs in general and her own speech. "It's a very thin line as a woman that we have to make between saying what we think is right and not coming across as very aggressive," Bik said.
Gastroenterologist and neuroscientist Laura Pace and Instacart CEO Fidji Simo have partnered on a women's health initiative called the Metrodora Institute, which will integrate clinical care and research from neurologists, gastroenterologists, immunologists, rheumatologists, pain specialists, geneticists, physical and occupational therapists, and nutritionists, Pace says. "The goal is to eventually have clinics distributed around the country and to help clinicians who think there is a different way to practice medicine and to bring this model to different disease spaces," Pace said.
Bristol Myers Squibb immunologist and senior vice president Teri Foy says she was stunned by the lack of diversity at the first JP Morgan Healthcare Conference she attended as the chief scientific officer of a biotech company seeking collaborators. "Being the only woman in a room "can cause you to concentrate on the fact that you are the 'only' instead of the many reasons you deserve to be there," Foy said. Female scientists should "be conﬁdent in who they are and what they bring to the table, regardless of who else is at that table," Foy added.
Holly Burns says she appreciates the funds raised during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but for Burns, who has had breast cancer, "October is basically 31 days of low-key PTSD," and 37-year-old Becca Forrest, who was diagnosed in 2018, says it's "as if someone is waving a neon pink flag at me all month to remind me that the most traumatic moment of my life could happen all over again." Psychologist Kathleen Ashton says most of her patients at the Cleveland Clinic Breast Center feel the same way, and survivors shouldn't "feel pressure to be a spokesperson for breast cancer."
MIT Press has released a short documentary film telling the story of a 1999 study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology proving that female faculty were routinely subjected to marginalization and discouragement, prompting 16 female faculty members to launch a diversity and equality movement. The film is titled "The Uprising" and speaks to the talent that is lost through discrimination and exclusion.
Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has, paradoxically, opened new opportunities for mentoring, say senior scientist Christine Pfund at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and assistant professor Ruth Gotian at Weill Cornell Medicine. "I think the pool of mentors has expanded exponentially, because we can easily and comfortably look outside of our department, outside of our institution and outside of our industry," Gotian said.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute is investing $2 billion in a 10-year plan to increase diversity in the life sciences by supporting undergraduate students, researchers and educators in STEM from underrepresented groups, including women and Black, Hispanic and Native American/Alaskan Native people. Rockefeller University professor Erich Jarvis said the initiative "could make a dent in things," and University of Michigan professor Lola Eniola-Adefeso said the program is promising but could be improved.
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