Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KPLU moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

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Bertha The Boring Machine
4:55 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Tunnel Company Says Bertha Rescue Is Already A Month Behind Schedule

Placing the concrete pilings, as seen in this conceptual drawing, is taking longer than expected.
Seattle Tunnel Partners

Just six weeks after the contractor managing the State Route 99 tunnel project laid out its timeline for getting back to digging, the company said it’s about a month behind on repairs to its tunneling machine.

Crews are working to burrow down from the surface to where the machine known as Bertha is sitting idle. An early step is to sink a circle of interlocking concrete pillars that will line the access shaft and protect surrounding structures, but that’s proving harder than what the company was planning for in mid-June.

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Oso Slide
4:34 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Scientists Say Smaller 2006 Landslide Set The Stage For Oso Disaster

The 2014 Oso slide "remobilized" the zone of a smaller slide from 2006.
WSDOT

A small landslide in 2006 set the stage for the catastrophe that claimed 43 lives in Oso, Washington this past March, say a panel of scientists in a federally-funded study.

The hills above the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River had slid before, at least 15 times over the centuries, according to the study.

But one slide in particular left Oso vulnerable. In 2006, that smaller slide left a loosely-packed mass of debris perched dangerously above the Steelhead Haven development and its neighbors.

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Eating Bugs
5:00 am
Tue July 22, 2014

5 Reasons Eating Bugs Could Save The World, According To Seattle's Own 'Bug Chef'

Here's a deep-fried tarantula.
Chugrad McAndrews of Seattle "The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook," published by Ten Speed Press.

Seattle author David George Gordon would be more than happy to share his recipe for his three bee salad or cricket nymph risotto. Try the deep-fried tarantula, the bloomin’ onion of arachnids.

Gordon is known as “the bug chef,” and has written one of the more comprehensive cookbooks showcasing bugs and their kin. He is also a true believer in insects as a food source for an ever-hungrier planet, as laid out in a lengthy U.N. report last year.

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Infectious Diseases
5:01 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Study Finds MRSA 'Superbug' Lurking At Washington Firehouses

Nearly 60 percent of firehouses sampled by UW School of Public Health researchers tested positive for MRSA.
Billy V Flickr

Fighting fires is a dangerous job, and new research on firehouses around Washington state has revealed another hazard — one that lurks on firefighters’ boots, their trucks and even their TV remotes.

MRSA is a nasty and sometimes deadly bacterium that’s hard to kill with antibiotics. It’s normally associated with hospitals, nursing homes or prisons, but researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health recently tested 33 firehouses for the presence of MRSA. They found the bug at 19 of those firehouses. Twelve crews reported having at least one member who’d gotten an infection requiring medical care.

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Boston Marathon Bombing
5:01 am
Fri July 18, 2014

When A Bomb Goes Off During Your Study On Trauma: New UW Findings On PTSD

Medical workers aid injured people after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, April 15, 2013.
Charles Krupa AP Photo

When a traumatic event happens, some people find ways to cope while others get caught in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder. A new study led by a Seattle researcher and enabled by an unexpected disaster suggests a way we might be able to predict who’s most likely to struggle.

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Cancer Research
5:00 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Seattle Scientist Trying To Disrupt HPV, Which Hacks Your Cells To Cause Cancer

Rachel Katzenellenbogen
Gabriel Spitzer

The human papillomavirus is a bit like a tiny hacker — black hat, of course — that sneaks into your cells, hijacks your hardware and uses it to copy itself. For nearly 80 million Americans, this is happening right now, and nearly all sexually-active people will pick up HPV at one time or another.

For a smaller number of us, that bit of forced entry touches off a chain of events that leads to cancer — mainly cervical cancer, but also penile, rectal, throat and tongue cancers. If scientists could figure out exactly how that happens, they might able to intervene and disrupt the process.

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Marijuana Businesses
5:00 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Where The First State-Licensed Pot Shops Are, And Why Some Will Wait To Open

Scroll down for the full embedded map, which we are updating as we hear back from licensees.
Map by Malcolm Griffes

Twenty four retailers around Washington state received a special email today, giving them official approval to open their doors and start selling marijuana. The licenses clear the way for the state’s first recreational pot shops to open sometime Tuesday.

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Alleged Deception
4:10 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Feds Say T-Mobile Tucked Bogus Charges Into Bills, Hid Them From Customers

File image
Mark Lennihan AP Photo

Federal regulators are taking Bellevue-based T-Mobile to court, accusing the company of billing customers for services they never signed up for.

Those services might include flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip.

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Health And Gender
4:53 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Insurance Commissioner: Wash. Health Plans Must Cover Services For Transgender People

File image
Petros Giannakouris AP Photo

Health plans in Washington state can’t refuse to cover services for transgender people if the same procedures are covered for others, according to a statement from the state insurance commissioner.

It’s not uncommon for private health plans to exclude gender transition procedures and medical services related to them. That’s what happened to Gwen Yeh of Seattle, who said her Premera plan wouldn’t pay for hormones or the frequent blood work she needed as part of her move toward living as a woman.

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Public Safety
4:40 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Seattle Mayor Calls For 'Summer Of Safety,' A Coordinated Strategy For Fighting Disorder

File image
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP Photo

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has issued a sweeping call for a “summer of safety,” an integrated approach to public safety that would lead to longer-term priority.

Standing before members of the Seattle City Council Wednesday, Murray touched on police reform, racial disparities, infrastructure and mental health. He said up to now, there has been a sense that the city doesn’t really have a clear, coordinated strategy for fighting crime and disorder.

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Brain Development
4:32 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Wash. Scientists Cheer Docs' Push To Read To Kids Starting At Birth — Or Earlier

Pediatricians will start urging parents to start reading their infants as soon as they're born.
Scott MacLeod Liddle Flickr

The nation’s largest association of pediatricians is recommending parents read to their children starting at birth. Research by Seattle-area scientists suggests kids can indeed benefit from hearing lots of language right from day one – or even earlier,  even though most kids don’t start talking until they’re at least a year old.

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Mapping the Volcano
5:00 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Researchers To Take 'CAT Scan' Of Plumbing Deep Inside Mount St. Helens' Gut

Don Ryan AP Photo

A group of Northwest scientists are sprinkling the landscape around Mount St. Helens with high-tech sensors as part of a new effort to map the volcano’s deep plumbing.

Scientists have a pretty good understanding of what’s happening right under the mountain, where a big chamber periodically fills up with magma before an eruption. Now they’re looking deeper — down dozens of miles — to the tubes and tunnels that feed that chamber.

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Senior Thesis
5:00 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Public Health Crusader And College Student Talk Sex, AIDS And What Makes Them Mad

Courtesy of Bob Wood.

Editor's Note: “Senior Thesis” is a special week-long series that brings together venerable veterans in various fields with university students hoping to forge a career in the same field.

Bob Wood and Carolyn Wortham sat opposite each other in the KPLU studio, separated by a generation during which a whole lot had happened.

Between the time that Dr. Wood took up arms against the AIDS epidemic and when Wortham took on the same fight, the illness has gone from mysterious killer to manageable condition. The battlefield had moved, to some extent, from urban gay neighborhoods to the developing world.

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Judicial Independence
4:54 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

OIC Whistleblower Speaks, Says She's Still Muzzled

An administrative law judge who accused the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner of pressuring her to rule in its favor broke her silence Monday, but she told lawmakers she’s not allowed to give them the whole story.

Patricia Petersen appeared before the state Senate Law and Justice Committee. She said she wants to tell the legislators what’s behind her spat with the OIC, including her accusation that the agency’s second-in-command pressured her to rule in the office’s favor.

But Petersen, in her first public comments since lodging a whistleblower complaint against her boss, said the commissioner gave her a gag order on the matter while it’s being investigated.

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Bike Share
1:01 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Study Finds Bike Shares Increase Proportion Of Head Injuries; Seattle To Offer Helmets

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 25, 2013, photo, a biker rides without a helmet on a Citibike, as part of New York City's bike sharing system, in New York.
Bebeto Matthews AP Photo

New research suggests that bike share programs have a downside, but the program Seattle is launching this fall will have a key feature that could help mitigate it.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Washington State University looked at bicycle injury data from 10 major cities, both with and without bike share programs. They found that when a city gets a bike share program, a higher proportion of injuries to its cyclists are head injuries. 

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