We asked our readers to submit essays nominating their genetic counselors for the 2018 Code Talker Award. The essays we received made us laugh, cry, think, and certainly appreciate the hard work and commitment each nominated counselor put toward their patients. Identifying the top three was incredibly difficult, but the following genetic counselors stood out.
Click on the name of the winner and each finalist below to read the amazing essay nominating them for the Code Talker Award.
Margaret Au, MBE, MS, CGC, is a genetic counselor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She specializes in genetic counseling in a pediatric setting. Au received her genetic counseling degree in 2008 from the University of Cincinnati. She also has a master’s degree in bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania.Read Margaret's Essay
Lisa Johnson, MS, CGC, is a genetic counselor at Miami Valley Hospital. She specializes in prenatal and pediatric counseling. In 1995, Johnson received her genetic counseling degree from Indiana University.Read Lisa's Essay
Hannah L. Scanga, MS, LCGC, is a genetic counselor at the UPMC Eye Center at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She specializes in ophthalmic genetics, seeing patients from infancy through adulthood. Scanga received her master’s degree in genetic counseling in 2010 from Case Western Reserve University.Read Hannah's Essay
Genetic counselors are specially trained professionals who help people cope with and understand genetic conditions. They serve as an information bridge — educating physicians, researchers, patients, and prospective parents about the role of genetics in inherited diseases. They are responsible for translating test results to people from diverse backgrounds, using scientific acumen and empathy to help people make informed decisions about their health.
Patients with certain genetic conditions and their families may face many daunting challenges when trying to uncover the underlying causes of their diseases. Sometimes, the search for genetic culprits is emotionally draining and fraught with clues that lead nowhere. Genetic counselors are on the frontline, standing alongside patients and their families as they try to make very difficult treatment decisions. They serve as translators, interpreting complicated medical information at critical moments in an understandable way.
Invitae and the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) present the Code Talker Award — an essay contest for patients and their families to pay tribute to a genetic counselor by nominating him or her for an award to be presented at NSGC’s annual education conference.
Essay nominations from patients, caregivers, and peers will detail the compassion, expertise, and helpfulness a genetic counselor had for a patient or his or her family.
After culling through hundreds of essays, the awards committee will choose three finalists. Finalists, the essayists, plus one guest each, will receive round-trip airfare and a two-night stay in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they will be honored at a reception during the NSGC conference in November 2019. The essays will be read aloud, and one genetic counselor will be awarded a special prize in recognition of his or her service to patients.
At the end of the program, each attendee will receive a book filled with up to 40 heart-felt essays and beautiful photography. This book will educate its reader by providing insights into what patients and their families value most in genetic counselors. Extra copies of the book will be provided for distribution to genetic counselors who were unable to attend the event. The book will serve as an enduring testament to the important role genetic counselors play in the quality of people’s lives.
The title of this award was inspired by the American Indian code talkers who served during World Wars I and II. These brave individuals communicated vital and often life-saving messages in their native languages, or special codes based on those languages, to the battle lines. Similarly, genetic counselors serve on the front lines of genomic medicine, delivering complex — and also potentially life-saving — information to patients and their families. They are experts in conveying the intricate and often nuanced results of genetic testing. Their skills profoundly impact pivotal healthcare decisions. With the Code Talker Award, we honor the award’s namesakes, as well as all genetic counselors who communicate with compassion and care.
Share your story! We are now accepting essays for the 2019 Code Talker Award.
Tell us how your genetic counselor impacted your healthcare decision — or those of a loved one — and your genetic counselor might just win our Code Talker Award!
The genetic counselors who are named as finalists, the essayists who nominated them, plus one guest each, will receive round-trip airfare and a two-night stay in Salt Lake City, Utah where they will be honored at a reception during the NSGC’s Annual Education Conference in November 2019. One of the three finalists will receive the 2019 Code Talker Award.
Essay submissions should be made by one person nominating one genetic counselor. A current or former patient, a caregiver, or a peer can make nominations, but essays should focus on a special connection between a genetic counselor and a patient.
Our editorial team collected the best essays we received and have assembled a book that provides insights into how patients and their families have been touched by their genetic counselors. Each essay highlights a different genetic counselor and the amazing contribution he or she made in a patient's life on a daily basis.Request a Copy