LeAnn Blankenship’s life course was altered when she was 15.
It was then that her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Dr. Blankenship saw how the doctors cared for her mom while displaying compassion and honor through her treatments. She grew close to the oncologist, and her interest turned to the science of cancer. Her mother’s oncologist agreed to let her shadow him while in high school to learn more about the job and how doctors work with patients.
Dr. Blankenship’s mother didn’t survive her cancer, but working with her mentor doctor, Dr. Blankenship learned that not all cases are the same.
“She passed away at a young age, so I’ve kept her memory with me throughout this whole journey,” Dr. Blankenship says. “It’s really helped guide me and helped shape who I am today.”
Dr. Blankenship recently joined Epic Care in Medical Oncology & Hematology in August. Her practice is now open in Pleasant Hill and, before the start of 2022, will split time between the Pleasant Hill and Emeryville offices.
In medical oncology and hematology, she treats all patients with cancer as well as benign issues such as low blood counts, anemia, iron, and Vitamin B 12 deficiencies
Knowing what patients and families feel when experiencing a cancer diagnosis has served her as a doctor, Dr. Blankenship says.
“A lot of times when you hear the word cancer, you immediately know your life has turned upside down,” she says. “It’s never an easy diagnosis for a patient or a family. But, having an oncologist that really can help kind of walk you through all of this and sit down and help explain stuff — which is what my mother’s oncologist did that helped me, so I try to do that with my patients and families, to put myself back in that situation. When I was 15 and hearing this for the first time, I remember the shock. So I really try to almost be a friend to the patients and families because I remember going through that.”
Caring for families as part of her patient care remains a healthcare necessity to Dr. Blankenship’s manner of practicing.
“If you are diagnosed, I really try to be one of the team members through a cancer diagnosis,” she says. “Each member of the family plays a vital role, and each doctor is important. I am here as one of those team members, trying to guide and listen and tailor things towards the patient.
“Getting to know patients and being almost their rock to turn to when they’re not going through a good situation is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.”
Dr. Blankenship grew up in Indiana and studied at St. George University School of Medicine in Grenada, finishing her internship and residency at NYU School of Medicine. She joins Epic Care after a fellowship at Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Michigan, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The constantly-changing cancer treatment options and the science of cancer care also continue to fascinate Dr. Blankenship.
“The world of oncology is really well researched, and they’re researching more and more, and every day we’re learning more and more,” she says. “Thank goodness for the scientists we have that have helped develop new therapies. Since I graduated college, we have seen advancements in immunotherapy that really started when I was in fellowship and now it’s used in almost every single cancer that we have… Seeing how the field of oncology keeps advancing on almost a daily basis is quite remarkable.”
Dr. Blankenship acknowledges that many patients begin their cancer diagnosis with fear and resistance. She warns patients against immediately taking to a computer to input symptoms and develop a diagnosis and treatment plan before a doctor can assist them.
“My role is to bridge the information to make sure that a patient understands the diagnosis,” she says. “I want to make sure all of their questions are answered upfront and really try to break it down in layman’s terms to understand the diagnosis on the patient level. I want to be their guidance throughout all of this while caring for them and helping them understand the best care.”
New to the Bay Area, Dr. Blankenship and her husband enjoy walking the trails of John Muir Woods with their rescue dog and exploring the local restaurant scene. She loves working in the whole-health practice of the Epic Care community.
“The thing that attracted me to Epic Care is that we are really a community-based practice filled with several multi-specialty experts,” Dr. Blankenship says. “We try to take each patient, each family and truly individualize the care to that person and that diagnosis. Being community-based, we see everything, and we treat everything, so the well-rounded, individualized, and personal care is what I have always tried to provide, and I found that here at Epic Care.”