Anna Leininger, MS, a Certified Genetic Counselor at Minnesota Oncology, was chosen from hundreds of applicants to be featured in the 2017 Code Talkers book published by Genome magazine and the National Society of Genetic Counselors. Each year, patients and their family members can nominate a genetic counselor who helped guide their recovery from a potentially devastating disease, such as cancer.
Mindy Kolodziejski met Anna when she went to an appointment with her grandmother, who had been diagnosed with cancer for a fourth time. Mindy’s grandmother wanted to speak with Anna about the possibility that the cancer was a result of a genetic mutation. Because Mindy was interested in genetics, her grandmother invited her to the appointment. Anna took the time to teach and talk with Mindy about the BRCA1 mutation, included her in the conversation, and showed Mindy compassion and respect that helped fuel her love for genetics and genetic counseling, and her meeting with Anna helped her decide to pursue a PhD in genetics.
“I have never forgotten how Anna treated my family and me, about how she took the time to make one girl’s day, not knowing it would change her life forever,” Mindy wrote. Mindy and many other Minnesota Oncology patients and families have been cared for with compassion and inspired with hope because of Anna’s expertise.
Cancer is a complex illness, and a team-based approach can help a person recover from cancer and stay cancer-free. With the help of genetic counselors like Anna, people with cancer, as well as their families, can feel empowered with knowledge about their genome and know that they are cared for in their fears and frustrations.