Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, and hosts KPLU's weekend program Sound Effect. 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

Wallie Funk / AP Photo

A well-known former resident of the Pacific Northwest will be getting special designation from the federal government. Lolita, a killer whale captured from Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, is now a member of an endangered species along with her wild cousins.

Lolita is the last known survivor of the many orcas captured from the Salish Sea in 1970. She has lived since then at the Miami Seaquarium. When Puget Sound orcas were later designated an endangered species, captive whales were excluded.

Courtesy of Marine Construction Technologies

A technology that emerged from University of Washington research has the potential to make undersea construction less of a headache for wildlife.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran as part of our new show, “Sound Effect,” which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m.

“Smell that, Gabriel.”

Jon Preston waves a jumble of moss under my nose. It looks very much like a green wig. I oblige and breathe in a lungful of earthy air.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Public health officials say this year’s flu shot provides less protection than in recent years, but Seattle scientists involved in the new study say the vaccine can still make a dent.

The Centers for Disease Control’s interim findings show the vaccine confers a 23 percent lower risk of getting influenza bad enough to need medical help.

Gexydaf / Flickr

Note: PLU holds the license for KPLU, where on-air staff are represented by the union SAG-AFTRA.

Non-tenure track faculty members at Pacific Lutheran University have withdrawn their petition to vote on forming a union. That ends, for now, an election that has dragged on more than a year.

Courtesy of Leila Mirhaydari

Editor's Note: This story originally ran as part of our new show, "Sound Effect," which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m. The show's inaugural episode on Jan. 10 explored the theme of newness.

Sparkle Glowplug / Flickr

Doctors and hospitals in Washington hope you'll take some time in the new year to think about death — your own, and your loved ones’. It's part of a campaign to get more people planning for health care at the end of life.

A University of Washington professor has taken a very unusual picture: It’s the most detailed photograph ever produced of a large spiral galaxy outside of our own. The massive panorama of the Andromeda Galaxy combines about 3,000 images snapped over three years by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Courtesy of Seattle Biomed

A Seattle scientist is set to begin clinical trials of a new malaria vaccine candidate, hoping a new twist on an old approach will finally yield an effective preventive treatment for the disease.

The idea of using a weakened pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response is not new — it is widely in use in, say, the nasal-spray version of the seasonal flu shot. In that vaccine, the idea is to hobble the virus enough that it cannot hurt the patient, but still allows the body to learn to recognize and fight the invader.

George Wesley & Bonita Dannells / Flickr

A federal ruling has paved the way for adjunct and part-time faculty at Pacific Lutheran University to unionize. The decision also sets a new precedent that could affect religiously-affiliated colleges and universities across the nation, including Seattle University.

Creative Commons

A Seattle biotechnology firm is making waves on Wall Street. Juno Therapeutics had a splashy initial public offering Friday, and shares climbed more than 45 percent in its first day of trading.

Settling ground is affecting the Alaskan Way viaduct, Pioneer Square buildings and underground water pipes, Seattle utilities officials said Monday. Engineers think the sinking is connected to the Highway 99 tunnel project, but it probably has little to do with actual digging.

nullschool (screen capture)

The Pacific Northwest is digging in for a potent windstorm, which is expected to rake the coast and then hit the inland Puget Sound region around 6 p.m.

The storm has been taking shape off the northwest coast as a tightly wound low-pressure system.

“Yeah, it looks meaning,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Josh Smith. “You’ll see the clouds spiraling around the low.”

Seattle Tunnel Partners

Officials overseeing the replacement of Seattle’s Alaskan Way viaduct are trying to tamp down safety concerns. But under questioning Monday from Seattle City Council members, they had a hard time coming up with an answer for when people should start to worry.

net_efekt / Flickr

The occasional home visit from a health worker can be strong medicine for people who suffer from asthma. A new study based in King County shows it can have as much benefit, and cost even less, than prescription drugs.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The King County Council has approved a budget that will preserve all 10 of the county’s public health clinics. The move took a patchwork of temporary measures to hold the planned cuts at bay.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

If you want to buy or change your health plan, state insurance marketplaces re-open Saturday for the first time since March. In the first round of enrollment, which ended in March, Washington cut its uninsured rate by more than a third. But recruiting the uninsured could be tougher this time around.

Health workers say they have collected much of the low-hanging fruit. For example, about 140,000 people bought health plans during the first open enrollment period, but three times as many got free coverage from Medicaid.

Kayla Scrivner of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said as recruiters focus more on private coverage, the sales job gets a little tougher.

Chiang Ying-ying / AP Photo

You might think you know Kenny G, but you probably don't know this Kenny G.

Before smooth-jazz Kenny G, there was funk-in-your-trunk Kenny G, and right here in Seattle, too. Take a listen: 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Lynnwood’s Kenneth Bae is said to be reconnecting with family after two years in North Korean captivity. Seattle author Blaine Harden says the timing of Bae’s release is no accident.

Harden, who wrote the bestselling “Escape from Camp 14” about a young North Korean who managed to flee a forced labor camp, says the release of Bae and fellow American Matthew Todd Miller has to do with a recent dose of international pressure.

“North Korea is in the dock for its human rights violations,” he said. “This has got the attention of the government there.”

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington’s health care exchange will reopen for business late this week, and exchange officials say people will have more choices and a smoother shopping experience this time around.

Saturday will mark the start of the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act. That means that most individuals will be able to get new health insurance or change plans for the first time since last spring.

Exchange spokesman Michael Marchand said they will find the list of options has grown.

Michael Duff / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington will not follow the lead of states imposing harsh restrictions on health workers back from treating Ebola patients.

Governors in New York, New Jersey and Illinois have announced that people returning from Ebola-affected countries may be subject to mandatory quarantine. Inslee says Washington will take a lighter touch, based on guidelines from federal health authorities.

Joe Polimeni / General Motors/AP Photo

Seattle voters widely approved a proposition to pay for Metro transit, even though the funding crisis that motivated the measure has subsided.

The transit measure will add $60 to Seattleites’ car tabs and raise the sales tax by 0.1 percent.

Cynthia Goldsmith / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Trick-or-treaters can look forward to less-than-ghoulish weather for this evening's candy harvest. KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass said Friday's rainy Pacific front should clear off to the east by the time the ghosts and goblins hit the streets.

(Does anyone dress up as ghosts or goblins anymore? Perhaps I should say "Marvel heroes," or "Provocatively-dressed pop culture figures." -ed.)

"It may not be as scary tonight as some people feared," said Mass, Professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. "Maybe there will be a few showers, but it will be mainly dry, so not too bad. And temperatures getting up into the upper 50s today [Friday]."

Cynthia Goldsmith / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Scientists from the University of Washington have managed to get lab mice with Ebola to mimic the symptoms of infected humans. And the findings show genes play a big role in how sick people get.

Scientists want to understand why Ebola makes some people terribly sick and gives others much milder symptoms. Now UW researchers have gotten mice to show a similar range of responses — something that has long eluded scientists. The new development could help them understand exactly how the virus takes its toll, and potentially speed up vaccine and drug development.

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.