Decoding Autism with Sara Lee Kessler

Sara Lee KesslerSara Lee Kessler

Sara Lee Kessler is New Jersey Public Television’s Health and Medical Correspondent.  Her “Healthwatch” segments air on Tuesdays and Thursdays on NJN News.  Topics have ranged from AIDS to anthrax and from asthma to autism.  Stories have taken Sara Lee to such diverse locations as trauma centers, pharmaceutical labs, clinics, operating rooms, biocontainment units, classrooms, and patients’ bedsides.  In all reports, whether they involve health trends or medical breakthroughs, Sara Lee focuses on the people angle:  “How does this development affect you?  How can you use this information to protect your own health?”

Ms. Kessler also hosts, writes, and produces NJN television specials on health, medical and other issues.  Her Emmy Award-winning documentary on bone marrow donation, “The Gift of Life,” aired nationally on PBS in 2003.  Sara Lee’s other long-form health programs include “Prescription New Jersey,” “Pressure Point,” “A Community Conversation on Public Health,” “Diagnosis Cancer,”  “Lead Alert: Playing with Poison” and “Remaking American Nursing.”  Ms. Kessler’s Holocaust documentary, “The Hidden Child,” which was shot on location in the Netherlands, aired nationally on PBS in April 2007 and received a 2007 Philadelphia Press Association First Place Award.  Her latest documentary, “Decoding Autism,” which was shot in California, Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Kentucky, as well as New Jersey, debuted on NJN in September 2010 and is now airing on PBS television stations around the nation. "Decoding Autism" won First Place honors for Best Media Affiliated Website in the 2010 NJ Society of Professional Journalists Awards competition.

Additionally, Sara Lee anchors, writes and produces public service announcements, including a year-long “Lead-Safe” public awareness campaign which received a 2006 American Women in Radio & Television Gracie Award and a national Emmy nomination for Community Service.  Her “To Your Health” initiative, which debuted on NJN in 2001, was a series of 52 public service announcements. Topics included Stroke Warning Signs, Latinos & Diabetes, Black Infant Mortality, AIDS, Women & Heart Disease and Hepatitis C.

Sara Lee Kessler has been recognized with numerous honors and commendations during her three decade-long broadcasting career, including a 2006 New Jersey General Assembly Resolution for her “humanitarian efforts.”  She is the recipient of two Emmy Awards and 18 Emmy nominations. Sara Lee’s first Emmy was for anchoring WWOR-TV’s live coverage of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.  Her second Emmy was for “The Gift of Life,” which was named “Outstanding Health/Science Program.”  Sara Lee Kessler and “The Gift of Life” also received a 2003 Clarion Award for “Outstanding Local Documentary” and a NETA Award from PBS for “Outstanding Public Service Programming.”  Ms. Kessler has also been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists with a 2004 Sigma Delta Chi Public Service Award for the “Diagnosis Cancer” companion website.  Her one-hour prime time special, “Lead Alert:  Playing with Poison,” received a 2006 Philadelphia Press Association First Place Award and a Newswomen’s Club of NY Front Page Award. “Remaking American Nursing” was honored with a 2007 Emmy nomination for community service.

Ms. Kessler also received a 2001 Gracie Award for “A Community Conversation on Public Health” and a 2000 Time, Inc. Freddie nomination for her news series, “Bone Marrow: The Donor’s Viewpoint.”  Sara Lee also received an Edward R. Murrow Award for the 1986 multi-part news series, “Aids:  An Epidemic of Fear,” a 1988 Associated Press Award for the news series, “Last Chance Babies,”  a 1991 Angel Award for “Liver Babies: The Organ Transplant Crisis” and an International TV & Film Festival Silver Medal for her special 10-part news series from the Middle East,  “Israel at Forty:  The Dream, The Reality.”

Sara Lee Kessler was named to the 2004 HealthSense List of New Jersey’s 50 Most Influential Players in the Political Healthcare Arena.  She is a 2003 recipient of the New Jersey State Nursing Association Epic Award and a 1998 New Jersey Public Health Association honoree for her Outstanding Contribution in the Media to the Cause of Public Health in New Jersey.  In 2000, Sara Lee Kessler was named Woman of the Year by the National Council of Young Israel.  In 1996, she received a Susan B. Anthony Award from the National Organization of Women (New York Chapter).

Sara Lee is also President of Kessler Communications, a television production, public relations and marketing firm in Englewood, New Jersey that conducts speakers training and crisis communications seminars. Additionally, she has developed and taught broadcast journalism courses at Montclair State University, Yeshiva University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Stern College.  Ms. Kessler is a former Trustee of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, former Governor and Secretary of its New York Chapter and former New York Chair of the Academy’s National Student Television Program.

Sara Lee Kessler holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Radio/Television/Film from the University of Texas, where she studied Journalism in the Graduate School of Communication.  She is married, has two adult children, and lives in Englewood, New Jersey.

Support for the Decoding Autism website is made possible by Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization.