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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Ebola
5:01 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Ebola 'Still Small Potatoes,' But A Major Menace In West Africa

FILE - In this Tuesday Sept. 30, 2014 file photo, Nowa Paye, 9, is taken to an ambulance after showing signs of Ebola infection in the village of Freeman Reserve, about 30 miles north of Monrovia, Liberia.
Jerome Delay AP Photo

As the Ebola outbreak first emerged in West Africa, some global health experts downplayed it. The virus has flared up here and there since it was discovered in the 1970s, and rarely has its death toll exceeded a few dozen or at most a few hundred.

“I actually was among those who didn’t think it would be that big a deal, and like the previous ones, it would be contained and would burn itself out very quickly,” said Tom Paulson, who has been covering global health for nearly 20 years. “I was dead wrong.”

Paulson, the founder and editor of Humanosphere, sat down with KPLU to talk about why he’s changed his mind and come to see Ebola in Africa as a major menace.

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Paid Sick Leave
2:32 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Seattle City Auditor: No More Kid Gloves For Violators Of Sick Leave Ordinance

Seattle's auditor said it's time to step up enforcement of an ordinance requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave to workers.
Sean MacEntee Flickr

A city department has enforced Seattle’s mandatory sick leave ordinance mainly by sending violators a polite letter. Now the city auditor says it’s time to get tougher.

Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights used a pretty light touch during the first year of requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave for workers. The department would typically respond after a worker complained, sending the employer a “non-adversarial letter.”

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Prostitution
3:40 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

King County Flips The Script On Prostitution, Targeting Buyers Instead Of Sex Workers

File image
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Law enforcement authorities in King County have announced a major change in how they go after prostitution. They said they plan to stop targeting prostituted women, and train their sites instead on the men paying for sex.

Police and advocates say prostituted women have long been targeted for arrest – 10 times more often than the buyers, according to the Washington State Patrol.

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Java Genes
5:01 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Craving For Coffee May Be Passed Down Through Generations Of Genes

Researchers identified eight genetic variants associated with craving coffee.
chichacha Flickr

A love for coffee may run deep in the Northwest, but now a Seattle scientist says the craving for coffee seems to be written into some people’s DNA.

Researchers from Harvard University, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and elsewhere sifted through the genes of more than 100,000 people, looking for common variants that correlate with heavy coffee consumption. They zeroed in on eight genetic variations associated with that deep compulsion to hoist a mug of joe.

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Ebola Preparedness
12:54 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Seattle's Harborview Agrees To Accept Evacuated U.S. Ebola Patients

The Washington Dept. of Health lab in Shoreline is one of 13 cleared to test virus samples for Ebola.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle has agreed to consider accepting Americans infected with Ebola who have been evacuated from Africa. It’s just the fifth hospital in the United States to do so.

UW Medicine, which operates Harborview, said the decision would be based on whether the hospital has capacity at the time. Dr. Timothy Dellit said the hospital’s normal infection controls and a heightened awareness of patients’ travel history will help minimize any risk to health workers or the public.

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Martian Water
5:01 am
Fri October 3, 2014

At Age 21, WSU Undergrad Helps Develop Method For Hunting Water On Mars

Kellie Wall examines volcanic rock to help understand how to spot signs of water on Mars.
Washington State University

A team of scientists has come up with a way to search for water on Mars, and the person behind much of the research is a Washington State University undergraduate.

At age 19, Kellie Wall was planning to major in communications. She needed a science credit and wound up in a geology course with a professor who was a big believer in undergrads getting research experience. There, Wall learned about a project involving volcanoes and other planets.

“I was really excited about it because there was this buzzword Mars attached to it,” she said.

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Global Health
3:32 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Emerging History Of HIV Pandemic Sheds Light On How Infectious Diseases Spread

FILE - This April 12, 2011 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows an H9 T cell, blue, infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), yellow.
AP Photo/NIAID

A Seattle scientist is helping piece together the history of the HIV pandemic, and the new findings on when and where the pandemic began are helping explain how infectious diseases go global.

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Cancer Treatment
7:35 am
Mon September 29, 2014

First In The World, Seattle Surgeon Operates On Metastatic Brain Tumor With Sound

Dr. David Newell, co-founder of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, with a machine that delivers focused ultrasound. Doctors at Swedish were the first in the world to treat a metastatic brain tumor patient with the technology last week.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Surgeons at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle treated a patient for metastatic brain cancer last week with sound in what is believed to be the first procedure of its kind in the world.

Besides drugs, there used to be basically one tool for attacking attack brain cancer: a knife. Scientists have been developing less and less invasive ways to get at brain tumors, and now an early-stage trial at Swedish Neuroscience Institute has shown surgeons can treat a metastatic tumor with high-frequency sound beamed painlessly through the skull.

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Gut Churn
5:01 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Jad Abumrad Tells Origin Story Of 'Radiolab', Learns To Embrace 'Gut Churn'

Jad Abumrad told the gut-churning tale of how Radiolab came to be.
marcoantonio.com

The public radio program "Radiolab" – part documentary, part audio art, part mad-scientist radio drama – is an experience unlike any other in the media. So what does it feel like to create something brand new like that?

"Radiolab" founder Jad Abumrad has been thinking about that question, and he said the best way to describe it is: gut churn. Abumrad will be giving a soundscaped live talk Tuesday night in Seattle called “Embracing the Gut Churn.”

“It kind of feels like you’re going to die,” Abumrad told KPLU. “And then you ask yourself, why do I feel this way on account of a radio piece or something you know is minor, And yet it triggers these deep fight-or-flight reflexes.”

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Ear-catching
6:10 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Listen To Seattle Man Blow A Shofar Inside A Two-Million Gallon Water Tank

Jon Lellelid practices his shofar every day this time of year, outside his office in Marysville, Washington.
Gabriel Spitzer

The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah began Wednesday at sundown, and Jews around the world marked the Hebrew calendar’s new year with a clarion call from the shofar. The horn, usually made from the horn of a ram or antelope, is a tricky instrument to learn. 

Here's how it sounds when played in a two-million gallon cistern at Fort Worden State Park by Seattle's "master blaster" of shofar, Jon Lellelid.

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Jewish New Year
4:43 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Seattle's 'Master Blaster' Welcomes Jewish New Year With His Shofar

Jon Lellelid practices his shofar every day this time of year, outside his Marysville office.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday at sundown, and Jews around the world mark the Hebrew calendar’s new year with a clarion call from the shofar. The horn, usually made from the horn of a ram or an antelope, is a tricky instrument to learn. But it’s become a passion for Jon Lellelid, known as Seattle’s “master blaster.”

Lellelid was at a temple function in 2002 when the cantor asked him to blow the shofar next Rosh Hashanah. Lellelid used to play trombone, so it seemed like a good fit. But there was a hitch.

“I think there's going to be a problem because I'm not Jewish,” he said.

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Hospital News
10:46 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Providence Hospital Chain: Catholic, Nonprofit...And Venture Capitalists?

Providence Olympia Facebook page

The state’s largest nonprofit hospital chain is getting into a new line of business: venture capitalism.

Providence Health & Services, which runs 34 hospitals and hundreds of clinics, wants to be a player in the startup scene. The Catholic-affiliated chain has created a venture capital fund with about $150 million to invest in companies pioneering new health care models, especially ones focused on technology.

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Infectious Diseases
9:30 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Enterovirus Confirmed In Two Kids Hospitalized In Seattle

Seattle Children's Hospital has admitted more than 20 children with suspected Enterovirus-D68 infections.
Seattle Children's Hospital

Health officials have confirmed that two patients treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital have tested positive for Enterovirus D68. That puts Washington in the company of 18 other states with confirmed cases of the virus, which mainly sickens children and is especially dangerous for kids with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The two Children’s patients were stabilized and discharged, according to a statement by the hospital. One is from King County and the other from Snohomish.

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World Population
2:49 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

UW Researchers Forecast More Crowded Planet, Warn Population Could Hit 11 Billion

World population could hit 11 billion by the year 2100.
NASA

The planet could be much more crowded by the end of the century than previously thought, according to a new report by University of Washington researchers.

That contradicts a general consensus that world population growth is likely to stabilize before long. The population has been expected to rise from the current seven billion or so to about nine billion, before leveling off and possibly declining.

But new projections, based on new statistical models, suggest the numbers will not tail off after all. Instead, statistician and sociologist Adrian Raftery said we could hit 11 billion and counting by century’s end.

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Charitable Giving
5:01 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Seattle Nonprofit Veteran Says Push To Cut 'Overhead' Starves Charities

File image
401(K) 2012 Flickr

If you’re a shareholder in a company, you probably want that business to run as efficiently as possible. Lately it’s gotten easier to apply that mentality to nonprofit charities, too, with online rating sites that score charities on how much of your gift goes directly to the mission, and, in some cases, call out organizations with high overhead.

It sounds like a smart way to give, but Eric Walker says it’s a troubling trend.

“Wouldn’t that be a good thing if 99 cents of my dollar went to the soup in the soup kitchen?” Walker asked. “The problem is there's a whole bunch of work to put that soup in the pot and get it to the soup kitchen that there’s nobody to pay for.”

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