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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jenny Ingram / Flickr

A virus that has sickened children across the Midwest may have arrived in western Washington. Public health officials said 15 children have been hospitalized at Seattle Children’s Hospital, including five in intensive care, with symptoms that match infection from Enterovirus D-68.

That virus has sent at least 84 children to the hospital in states from Colorado to Kentucky, but this appears to be the first sign of it on the West Coast. The virus usually causes cold-like illness, but sometimes comes with severe respiratory symptoms like coughing and difficulty breathing.

WCN 24/7

Residents of a rural Pennsylvania county who live near natural gas wells reported more health problems than their neighbors who live farther away. That and other findings by a University of Washington researcher raise questions about the health effects of the practice known as fracking.

Researchers went door to door in tiny Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, where gas is extracted by underground hydraulic fracturing. They didn’t tell residents they were there investigating fracking, calling it simply a general environmental health survey. They asked randomly selected households representing almost 500 people about a number of different of symptoms.

University of Washington

A researcher in genetics at the University of Washington has won a prominent award, sometimes referred to as the American version of the Nobel Prize, in part for a key contribution to understanding breast cancer.

Mary-Claire King knew that breast cancer runs in some families, but it wasn’t clear why. In the 1970s and '80s, genetic research was much more cumbersome and expensive than it is today, and the very idea that a gene could trigger a complex disease like cancer was controversial.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Seattle City Council is marking a cultural anniversary Monday: 40 years of legal busking in the city. Seattle musician Jim Page was behind the ordinance that legalized street performing back in 1974.

Page said he was playing guitar and singing one day in front of Oliver’s Meats, near Pike Place Market.

“I’m just singing along, and a motorcycle police officer pulled over,” Page said. “And he shouted at me over his motor and said, ‘Do you have a permit?’ I said no. He said, ‘Next time I see you,, I’ll give you a ticket.’”

Page said he offered to get a license, but was told he couldn’t do that, since he was not blind.

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