Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / 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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.”

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A King County public health clinic slated for closure is getting a bailout, but three more clinics remain on the line as the health department confronts a big budget shortfall.

The public health clinic at White Center has been on borrowed time this year, along with clinics in Auburn, Bothell and Federal Way. Now the city of Seattle is proposing to kick in $400,000 to keep it open. Public Health Seattle & King County will continue providing WIC services and other support for new mothers, but will turn its family planning services there over to Planned Parenthood.