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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Health Care
4:29 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Audit: State Overpaying Medicaid Providers

Washington state has been overpaying for health care under the Medicaid program, according to state auditors.

The audit found the state spent about $17 million more than it should have on free health care for the poor in 2010. The amount is a tiny, tiny part of the billion-dollar Medicaid budget. But the auditor found the overpayments could feed a vicious cycle, increasing each year.

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Total Eclipse Of the Moon
3:12 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Seattle-Area Skygazers May See Glimpse Of 'Blood Moon' — If They're Persistent

The "blood moon" glows reddish in the Earth's shadow.
Fred Espenak NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Puget Sound region won’t be the best place to take in the lunar eclipse in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. High clouds are likely to obscure the so-called “blood moon,” which flushes reddish in the shadow of the Earth.

University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass says the northwest Washington coast might fare better. And cloud breaks might give even Seattle-area moon-gazers a glimpse — if they keep looking.  

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Philanthropy
3:41 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

$20 Million Gift From Bezos Family To Support Cancer Therapies At Fred Hutch

CT scans of a patient with stage 4 lymphoma before (left) and five months after (right) treatment with T cells show how tumors melted away.
Courtesy of Dr. David Maloney Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

The family of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has given Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center its largest-ever single gift.

The $20 million donation will fund research into cancer immunotherapy, a field that uses the body’s own immune system fight tumors. Fred Hutch president Dr. Larry Corey says the line of research is making huge strides.

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Oso Slide
10:24 am
Wed April 2, 2014

In Oso, The Grim Accounting Continues As United Way Prepares To Distribute Relief

Workers carrying hand tools and shovels walk past a U.S. flag Tuesday, April 1, 2014, near Darrington, Wash., in the debris field of the deadly mudslide that hit the community of Oso,Wash. on March 22, 2014.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Searchers painstakingly combing through mud and debris have confirmed the deaths of 29 people, though more have been found than the official tally reflects. Twenty people are listed as missing.

Father Tim Sauer, pastor of Catholic churches in communities on either side of the slide, said the first funerals are expected within the next several days.

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Affordable Care Act
2:31 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

On Last Day Of Enrollment, Shoppers Rush To Sign Up For Health Insurance

Ingrid Nielsen, a volunteer with Public Health Seattle & King County, is seen helping directing people to the enrollment event.
Gabriel Spitzer

Midnight Monday marks the end of the first open enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That means most people without insurance come Tuesday will have to wait seven months to sign up.

In spite of some outages, last-minute shoppers have mobbed the websites for state and federal exchanges. And they also showed up in person at King County’s public health headquarters for an eleventh-hour enrollment event.

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Patient Safety
6:37 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

England's Health Secretary Models Nationwide Reforms On Seattle Hospital

English Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt (right), along with Virginia Mason Medical Center CEO Gary Kaplan, says the Seattle hospital is one of the safest in the world.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

England’s health secretary has taken the unusual step of using a Seattle hospital to announce a major policy reform in his own country. The new patient safety policies are partly inspired by Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center.

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Affordable Care Act
5:01 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Who In Washington Deserves An Extension On Monday's Obamacare Deadline?

Ads from Washington's health exchange are urging people to get covered before the March 31 deadline.
Washington Health Benefits Exchange

Washington’s health exchange is wrestling with how to accommodate people who have had trouble signing up for insurance. The March 31 deadline has been looming for months, as officials urge people to get covered or face a fine.

But considering the well-known problems at the state and federal exchanges, officials figured some people will need an extension. The question is who gets it.

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Anti-Smoking
4:53 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

State Health Officials: Tobacco Sales To Minors High For Second Straight Year

Department of Health

The Washington state Department of Health says too many retailers are willing to sell tobacco to minors. The department reports 15 percent of stores failed compliance checks last year. 

Health Secretary John Wiesman says it’s the second year in a row with a high number, and this trend threatens some of the progress made in reducing youth smoking.

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Translating Jargon
12:01 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

KPLU's Annotated Guide To The Health Insurance Gobbledygook You Need To Know

An annotated screenshot from WAHealthPlanFinder.
Justin Steyer KPLU

One thing about the Affordable Care Act is that now we’re all expected to be informed consumers about buying insurance. If you’ve never done that, you might be surprised at all the jargon you’re supposed to know. And if you’ve waited until the last minute to enroll — most people have until March 31 to sign up and dodge the fine, it’s time to start cramming.

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Natural Disaster
8:48 pm
Sun March 23, 2014

Landslide Death Toll Doubles To 8 In Snohomish County, At Least 18 Missing

A view of the breach where water from the Stillaguamish River is beginning to move through the dam created by Saturday's mudslide on SR 530 in Oso.
WSDOT

Authorities say the death toll from a massive landslide in rural Washington state has doubled to eight.

Snohomish County Sheriff's Lt. Rob Palmer said four more bodies were discovered late Sunday. Earlier in the day, authorities said one body had been found on the debris field. Three people were already confirmed dead on Saturday.

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Natural Disaster
12:51 pm
Sun March 23, 2014

Inslee: Deadly Mudslide Caused 'Total Devastation' In Snohomish County

WSDOT

Eighteen people were unaccounted for a day after a terrifying wall of mud, trees and debris destroyed as many as 30 houses in rural northwestern Washington state and killed four people, authorities said Sunday.

Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Sunday that crews were able to get out to the debris and found the fourth body buried in the mud. Hots said emergency responders and technical rescue personnel found "no signs of life" as they scoured the area.

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Affordable Care Act
5:01 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Washington Health Exchange Banking On A Big March Surge In Enrollments

This screen grab shows Washington Healthplanfinder's website.

Most Americans who still don’t have health insurance by March 31 could face a fine, and Washington’s health benefits exchange is hoping the looming deadline will help motivate people to enroll. But so far, the exchange is lagging behind its goals.

Massachusetts, which served as a template for the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to get insurance or pay a penalty, saw a huge rush just before the deadline. Exchange board member Phil Dyer says Washington needs a similar surge.

“Well, I feel like we’re behind the power curve. We’ve got a long way to go,” Dyer said. “Let’s wait and see if March gets us there, and then take a hard look at planning for Exchange 2.0.”

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Emergency Room
5:01 am
Thu March 20, 2014

New Emergency Room Guidelines Help Washington Save Millions, Cut ER Visits

ER visits dropped 10 percent in the last fiscal year, due in part to a set of best practices around emergency room care, says a new report.
UMHealthSystem Flickr

Washington’s Medicaid program saved more than $33 million last year, and a new report gives much of the credit to a big push to reduce emergency room visits.

ERs are a great place to treat real emergencies, but a very expensive place to do run-of-the-mill medical care. So the Health Care Authority, the agency that runs Medicaid, partnered with the Washington State Hospital Association, the Washington State Medical Association and others to adopt seven best practices aimed at ensuring ERs are used for their intended purpose.

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Helicopter Crash
4:43 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

NTSB Investigating Fatal KOMO News Helicopter Crash Near Space Needle

Investigators look through the charred wreckage of a news helicopter and two vehicles after the chopper crashed into a city street near the Space Needle, Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Two people were killed inside a news helicopter when it crashed outside the KOMO-TV studios near the Space Needle in Seattle, sending clouds of black smoke into the sky during the rush hour at 7:40 a.m. Tuesday.

In addition to the fatalities, Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore said a man managed to free himself from one of the burning cars at the accident scene. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of serious burns. The man, who was initially listed in critical condition, was upgraded to serious condition Tuesday afternoon.

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Alzheimer's Disease
5:01 am
Fri March 14, 2014

5 Things A Local Journalist Wishes He Knew Before His Wife's Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Linda Tong was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease at age 51.
Collin Tong

Hear KPLU's interview with Collin Tong.

Consider the twin cruelties of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease: On the one hand, caring for him or her is non-stop responsibility, stress and expense. On the other, you have to watch the person you love slip away, or even worse, become a disoriented or even hostile stranger.

Seattle journalist Collin Tong experienced the long ordeal starting when his beloved wife Linda was diagnosed with the early-onset variety at age 51. Tong has edited a book, composed of stories from 23 caregivers, called “Into the Storm: Journeys with Alzheimer’s.” And he shared with us a handful of the practical things he wishes he’d known before caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

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