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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Twins
5:01 am
Fri June 6, 2014

UW's Twinfest Will Celebrate Twin Culture, And Their Unique Contribution To Science

UW will celebrate twins' unique contribution to science, and publicize the UW Twin Registry, at this weekend's "Twinfest."
Jane Waterbury Flickr

The University of Washington will host a big party this weekend to drum up publicity for a key branch of research, and only twins are on the guest list.

Scientists have long had a keen interest in twins because people who share genes can help tease out the influences of nature and nurture.

“There’s this very unique kind of natural experiment that they provide,” said Dr. Glen Duncan, director of the UW Twin Registry. “So they really provide a very powerful approach to studying very difficult questions.”

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Judicial Independence
4:39 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

OIC Whistleblower To Speak Out As Questions Linger Over Her Own Conduct

In this photo taken Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler speaks to seniors at an annual lobby day for the group in Olympia, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

An administrative law judge who says her boss meddled in her deliberations is calling for more independence for hearings officers who, like her, work for state agencies. But she faces questions about her own conduct in the case, too.

Chief presiding officer Patricia Petersen was in the middle of a high-profile dispute between Seattle Children’s Hospital and the state insurance commissioner when she said a prominent official at the commissioner’s office leaned on her to decide in the agency’s favor. That official also happens to be Petersen’s direct supervisor.

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Marijuana Legalization
9:55 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Showdown Over Wenatchee's Pot Business Ban Could Have Statewide Consequences

AP Photo

A would-be marijuana merchant is suing the city of Wenatchee over its ban on pot businesses. The outcome could have big implications for other local governments trying to keep out cannabis.

Shaun Preder of SMP Retail wants to open a retail pot store in Wenatchee. But the city does not grant licenses to businesses that don’t comply with federal law, which still considers marijuana illegal.

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Minimum Wage
3:39 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Seattle City Council Unanimously Approves $15 Minimum Wage — Highest In Nation

File image
AP Photo

The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 per hour, the highest in the nation.

Starting on April 1, 2015, the clock will begin ticking for Seattle-based employers to boost their minimum wage workforce up to $15 per hour. Raises will be phased in over the next three to seven years, depending on how large the business is and what other benefits it offers. 

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Summer Hunger
4:58 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

To Fight Students' 'Summer Hunger,' Sen. Murray Pushes Debit Cards For Lunches

Sen. Patty Murray wants to give families debit cards to help feed qualifying students in the summer.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

With summer approaching, families who rely on school lunches have to make plans for how to fill the gap. United States Sen. Patty Murray says the answer is to subsidize their grocery shopping.

There’s already a big federal program – the Summer Food Service Program – to serve lunches to kids who qualify for food subsidies. Speaking at a Central Area elementary school, Washington's senior senator said those programs can be hard to access, as families have to bring their kids to designated locations during certain hours. Her office said just 10 percent of Washington children participated in 2012.

Sen. Murray wants to put a debit card in the hands of each of those families that they can use to buy food, much as one would use food stamps.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
4:17 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

For PTSD Patients, Better Outcomes For Less Money If They Get To Choose Treatment

Patients given teh choice of pharmaceuticals or psychotherapy did better than those who were assigned treament.
Derek Gunnlaugson Flickr

Letting patients with post-traumatic stress disorder choose how they want to be treated can produce better outcomes for less money, according to a new study co-written by a University of Washington psychologist.

Treating someone with PTSD often comes down to a question of whether they get counseling or pharmaceuticals. The new study offers some evidence about which one works better, but even stronger evidence that letting the patient make the choice produces the best outcomes for the least cost.

Prof. Lori Zoellner, director of UW’s Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress, said letting patients decide helps them get the treatment best suited for them, and also increases their buy-in to whichever option they go with.

"You're probably more likely to take your medication regularly, to attend your psychiatrist visits more regularly. And in psychotherapy, you may also be more likely to do the homework," she said.

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Creek Restoration
5:14 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Currently A Ditch, Seattle's Longest Creek Soon To Be A Stream Again

SPU's Jason Sharpley survey's a culvert that will soon be removed to help restore Thornton Creek.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Utility crews are about to take a busy northeast Seattle thoroughfare out of commission for six months.

But in exchange for shutting down five blocks of 35th Avenue Northeast, utilities officials say the neighborhood will get relief from chronic flooding and a very new look for the city's longest creek.

The north and south branches of Thornton Creek converge just east of 35th Avenue. Floodwaters often submerge sections of the street after big storms and can inundate homes, Meadowbrook Community Center and nearby Nathan Hale High School.

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Unlikely Companions
5:00 am
Tue May 27, 2014

How One Woman Learned To Face Cancer From Her 3-Year-Old Hospital Roommate

Nina Garkavi and Greta York shared a room at Seattle Children's Hospital where they learned to face cancer together.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Nina Garkavi was feeling rotten. She was throwing up. She’d barely slept the night before. And she hadn’t managed a poop without excruciating pain in weeks.

She was halfway through six months of in-patient chemotherapy when a nurse came into her hospital room and started prepping the empty bed opposite hers. The nurse informed her, matter-of-factly, that another patient would be joining her.

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Weather with Cliff Mass
9:28 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Cliff Mass: It's A Holiday Crapshoot, But Consider Moving Your BBQ To Saturday

Showers and sunbreaks lie ahead for our three-day weekend.
Jean-Pierre Chamberland

Well, it's complicated.

The forecast for our long holiday weekend starts wet, then dries out, then gets downright motley as we move into prime barbecue territory.

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Whistleblower Dispute
3:25 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Insurance Commissioner Convenes Probe Of Whistleblower Complaint Against Its Own

Washington’s Insurance Commissioner is hiring an outside investigator to look into ethics complaints lodged by a hearing officer, and raising questions about the accuser’s own conduct.

Chief presiding officer Patricia Peterson referees disputes that arise at the commissioner’s office. During an especially contentious case, she says the commissioner’s number-two official tried to improperly influence her judgment.

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Comb Jellies
5:01 am
Thu May 22, 2014

A Shimmery Sea Blob From The San Juans May Have Just Upended Evolutionary History

Comb jellies may actually represent the first branch on animals' evolutionary tree.
Smithsonian Institution

A squishy little sea creature fished out of the Salish Sea may be rewriting our history of how animal life first evolved.

They’re called comb jellies, and they have nothing to do with hair products. They are translucent blobs that propel themselves with rows of shimmering threads called cilia.

Scientists captured specimens at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories and analyzed their genomes, coming to two pretty startling conclusions. First, these animals have nervous systems, but they look almost nothing like those of people or fish, or any other animal on Earth.

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Weather with Cliff Mass
9:18 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Cliff Mass: Gloom Looms As Sunshine Takes The Weekend Off

The sun sets over the Seattle waterfront on Thursday, May 15, 2014.
Aaron Brethorst

The weekend curse is back, according to KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

After a week of unseasonably warm and dry weather, reaching up into the 80s more than once, temperatures are set to drop about 10 degrees on Friday, and step down another 10 or so over the weekend.

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Ancient Americans
11:00 am
Thu May 15, 2014

First Kennewick Man, Now Naia: Seattle-Area Scientist Probes Secrets In Ancient Skeleton

Divers Alberto Nava and Susan Bird transport the Hoyo Negro skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed in order to create a 3D model.
Courtesy of Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

They call her Naia. She was probably about 16, a forager living mainly on fruit in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. One day she ventured into a cave when the floor gave out. She plunged maybe 100 feet and died.

And that’s how divers would find her, some 12,000 years later, alongside saber-tooth cats and other extinct animal bones in the now-underwater cave system.

“It’s the most complete female paleoamerican skeleton, period,” said James Chatters, owner of the Bothell-based company Applied Paleoscience.

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Affordable Care Act
5:10 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Wash. Health Insurance Rates To Increase, But By Less Than In Recent Years

Office of the Insurance Commissioner

The cost of health insurance for individuals is probably going up next year in Washington, but in a key test of the market under the Affordable Care Act, the rate hikes will be lower than in recent years.

How Obamacare would affect insurance rates has been one of the law’s big mysteries. There weren’t big price hikes this year, but now that the law has been fully in effect for some months, would there be a big jump for 2015?

According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the answer is no. In paperwork filed with the OIC, the 17 insurance companies have asked for an average increase of 8.25 percent increase. Commissioner Mike Kreidler says that's the smallest increase in seven years.

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Transit Cuts
4:31 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Seattle Mayor Taps Brakes On Transit Funding, Prepares His Own Plan

Mayor Ed Murray said the first round of planned bus service cuts would likely go through even if voters pass a new funding measure.
Atomic Taco Flickr

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is urging voters and elected officials not to get behind a local property tax hike to fund mass transit. Instead, the mayor plans to introduce his own proposal next week.

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