Community rallies to find bone-marrow match for professor

Stanford psychologist, whose leukemia has returned, needs transplant soon, friends say

The Bay Area's South Asian community, technology companies and universities across the country are rallying to save the life of a local woman in need of a bone-marrow transplant.

Nalini Ambady, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and parent of two students at Castilleja School, requires a transplant within the next four weeks, according to email appeals sent by her friends and family.

Since Dec. 11, 18 "cheek swab" events have been held on campuses, workplaces and libraries around the country in search of a donor match, which most likely will come from a person of Asian or South Asian descent. More than a dozen drives are scheduled between now and February.

In a Palo Alto event held Tuesday, Dec. 18, at Palo Alto Unified School District headquarters, nurse Linda Lenoir helped volunteers swab their inner cheeks for samples to be sent to a matching registry.

Nixon Elementary School parent Monisha Perkash, one of many potential donors who lined up Tuesday, said she heard about the drive through the Nixon parent communications network.

Another volunteer was Castilleja parent Caitlin Field.

"Time is short and the holidays are here," said Ena Gupta, a friend of Ambady's.

"This is your chance to give a gift that really matters."

At the drives, volunteers fill out paperwork and take cheek swab samples, which are entered into a registry that helps people find donor matches. It is also possible to register online to receive a swab kit in the mail.

If a registry match is found, donors still have a choice and may refuse. If selected and agreeing to be a donor, most can use what is known as a peripheral blood stem cell donation, a procedure similar to donating blood. For about a quarter of donors, the procedure involves using needles to extract marrow from the donor's hip.

Details are available at the website Help Nalini Now.

Ambady, first diagnosed in 2004 with acute myelogenous leukemia, had been in remission for eight years before the illness returned recently.

She is a social psychologist whose research expertise is nonverbal behavior and interpersonal perception. She taught at Holy Cross College, Harvard University and Tufts University before joining the Stanford faculty in 2011.

Her husband, Raj Marphatia, is a lawyer in the East Palo Alto offices of Ropes & Gray.

Donor-match drives for Ambady have been held at universities around the country, including Stanford, Columbia, University of New Hampshire, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, Harvard, MIT and New York University.

A drive was held at Google Monday, Dec. 17, and drives are planned at Electronic Arts Jan. 15 and at Cisco Systems Jan. 22.

The San Jose Public Library held a drive Dec. 15. Drives were held Dec. 16 at the Indian Community Center in Milpitas and at the Compassion Meditation Center in Hayward.

Other events are planned at various Catholic churches and libraries in the East Bay.


Like this comment
Posted by Melissa Baten Caswell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

HELP SAVE A LIFE! Please consider being tested for a bone marrow match to help Nalini Ambady and others in need. You can register online at or if you are 18-44 years old you can register at one of the many local donor matching drives that have been scheduled over the next few weeks.Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm

This is pointless unless the donor is of South Asian descent. Surely Nalini's doctor told her this. The donation must be EXACT or it will fail.

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