Obituary: Morvarid Karimi, assistant professor of neurology, 44

Remembered as an intellectual force, generous spirit, champion of women's rights

Karimi photo

Morvarid Karimi, MD, a tenacious researcher, committed teacher and compassionate clinician in the Department of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died May 21, 2016, of a brain hemorrhage. She was 44.

An assistant professor in the department’s Movement Disorders Section, Karimi also had a joint appointment at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology. As a physician, she specialized in movement disorders, including dystonia, and Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, among other conditions, and conducted research in Mallinckrodt’s Neuroimaging Laboratories.

“Morvarid was a real force in our group,” said Joel S. Perlmutter, MD, the Elliot H. Stein Family Professor of Neurology and chief of the Movement Disorders Section.

Perlmutter mentored Karimi in his lab and in the clinic. She cared for patients and families affected by difficult chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. “She was always tenacious, committed and incredibly protective and good with her patients,” he said. “She would go the extra 10 miles to make sure that she did everything possible to help them.”

In the lab, Karimi’s most recent research focused on dystonia and neuroimaging of dopamine pathways in the brain. “Morvarid approached research with the same spirit, with meticulous attention to detail,” Perlmutter added. “I always knew that any work that was ready to publish was checked, checked again and rechecked. Morvarid was not blinded by her own or my bias for the ‘right answer;’ rather, she wanted the correct answer.”

Karimi also was respected for her attention to women’s rights, especially in the workplace. “She had a strong sense of fairness and wanted everyone to be treated appropriately and equally,” Perlmutter said.

Born in Tehran, Iran, Karimi earned her medical degree in 1999 from the University of Munster in Germany. She then moved to the United States, where she worked for a year at the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wis. In 2003, she completed a neurology residency through the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

In 2004, she landed at the School of Medicine for a three-year movement disorders fellowship. In 2007, she became an instructor of neurology and, in 2010, an assistant professor of neurology.

Karimi is survived by her husband, Eric Johnson, MD, a hospitalist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital; her son, Kian, 12; her daughter, Suri, 6; her parents, Ebrahim Karimi and Shahla Shahrokh; and her brother, Ali Karimi.

“She loved her family and talked about their accomplishments and challenges,” Perlmutter said. “She made sure that the kids would have as much opportunity to learn as possible.”

A memorial service was held Wednesday, May 25, at Dar al-Zahra Mosque and Education Center in Wildwood, Mo. Her family will travel to Iran for her burial.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

The School of Medicine’s Movement Disorders Section is compiling a scrapbook of letters and messages from her colleagues, friends and family as a way to keep her spirit and personality alive for her children. For contributions or more information, please contact Stacey Barton, a social worker in the Movement Disorders Section and administrator of the university’s HDSA Center of Excellence, at

Originally published by the School of Medicine