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.”

Ways To Connect

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle may be booming, but a major King County agency is shrinking fast. Public Health - Seattle & King County is short $15 million a year, prompting the agency to close clinics and cut anti-tobacco efforts.

But few public health program are getting hit harder than family planning services, and experts say those cuts will cost far more than they save in the long run.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation / via Flickr

Even as momentum builds for an Ebola vaccine, researchers working to contain another virus say they’ve gotten their first big break in years. An older HIV vaccine candidate is showing new promise, and Seattle scientists will be leading a new trial of it early next year.

Gerry Lauzon / Flickr

A new study finds girls treated with radiation for a rare childhood cancer are much more likely to develop breast cancer as young women. The Seattle scientist who led the study said it shows some kinds of radiation therapy can be risky for children even at relatively low doses.  

The study looked at kids with Wilms tumor, a rare kidney cancer diagnosed in just 500 or so North Americans a year. The study has been going on for 45 years, and statistician Norman Breslow of the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been with it all along.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Two northwestern states are considering whether to follow Washington’s lead and legalize recreational marijuana. Oregon and Alaska will each take up the question on Nov. 4, and both ballot measures reflect lessons learned here.

There are plenty of different approaches to legalizing recreational marijuana, but for starters, there are basically two options on the menu: Colorado and Washington. So which one is more appealing to our neighbor states?

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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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