Stem Cell Story Wins Broadcasting Award
The documentary film Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita, focusing on the stem cell research and personal story of Feinberg School faculty member Jack Kessler, MD, and his daughter, Allison, now a medical student at the Feinberg School, has won a Peabody Award—one of the most prestigious awards in broadcasting.
The featureâlength film, produced and directed by Maria Finitzo of Kartemquin Films in Chicago, aired nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens series in 2008 and internationally on CBC, SBS Australia, and NOGA Israel.
“The Peabody board said it best,” said Dr. Kessler. “Maria made this film without compromising the science or the ethics of stem cell research, along with telling the human story of what happened to my daughter.”
The film puts a human face on stem cell research through the story of Dr. Kessler, the Ken and Ruth Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and chair of the Department of Neurology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and his daughter, Allison, an undergraduate student at Harvard University at the time the film was made. Dr. Kessler’s research had centered on the understanding and treatment of peripheral nerve disorders such as diabetic neuropathy, but when a skiing accident left his then-15-year-old daughter a paraplegic, he turned his research focus on using stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries.
“Looking at Terra Incognita, we see how Maria has explored a controversial, complex area of medical research via the personal stories of compelling characters with a lot to gain or lose by the success or failure of that research,” said David Tolchinsky, chair and associate professor of Northwestern University’s School of Communications master’s program in Writing for the Screen+Stage, from which Finitzo graduated in 2009. “It’s not surprising the film has won the Peabody.”
The Peabody Awards recognize the most outstanding achievements in electronic media, including radio, television and cable.