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

Passersby in several Seattle neighborhoods might notice the benign-looking billboards picturing a fit young couple with backpacks atop a mountain, or a bearded, flannel-clad man in front of a tent. You have to look a little closer to notice that the billboards are doing something brand new: openly advertising a cannabis company.

Paul Chiasson / AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Local and federal responders plan to rehearse how they’d handle the fiery crash of an oil train in Seattle – a hypothetical disaster that will play out around a table in King County.  

King County’s Emergency Management Department is coordinating with about a dozen different agencies in what they call a “tabletop exercise.” Staff will present the scenario, and responders around the table or on the phone then go through the motions of what happens next.

“Let’s say [it's] just a day like today, a nice wonderful day in Seattle. Oil train derails, oil spills, ignites, there's a large fireball in the sky,” said department director Walt Hubbard. “Who would you coordinate with? How would you communicate?”

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington’s recreational pot shops still aren’t selling marijuana food, partly because making the rules for it turned out to be so complicated. But the three brothers behind the state’s first licensed edibles processor are embracing the regulations, and generally looking to be the grown-ups in the new industry.

AP Photo/American Cancer Society

Seattle researchers have found a troubling link between certain kinds of birth control pills and a risk of breast cancer. But the lead scientist says women should not panic.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington’s senior U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says a new deal to spend billions on fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs is an essential step, but she warns the reform efforts are likely to unearth even more problems.

Bipartisan negotiators in Congress took a while to settle on a $17 billion package of reforms meant to address long waits for care at VA hospitals and clinics across the country.

As the Senate voted to confirm Robert McDonald as the new VA Secretary, Murray, the former chairwoman of the Senate veterans affairs committee, praised both the nominee and the reforms he’ll be overseeing. But she also warned there could be more troubling revelations to come.

Seattle Tunnel Partners

Just six weeks after the contractor managing the State Route 99 tunnel project laid out its timeline for getting back to digging, the company said it’s about a month behind on repairs to its tunneling machine.

Crews are working to burrow down from the surface to where the machine known as Bertha is sitting idle. An early step is to sink a circle of interlocking concrete pillars that will line the access shaft and protect surrounding structures, but that’s proving harder than what the company was planning for in mid-June.

WSDOT

A small landslide in 2006 set the stage for the catastrophe that claimed 43 lives in Oso, Washington this past March, say a panel of scientists in a federally-funded study.

The hills above the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River had slid before, at least 15 times over the centuries, according to the study.

But one slide in particular left Oso vulnerable. In 2006, that smaller slide left a loosely-packed mass of debris perched dangerously above the Steelhead Haven development and its neighbors.

Chugrad McAndrews of Seattle / "The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook," published by Ten Speed Press.

Seattle author David George Gordon would be more than happy to share his recipe for his three bee salad or cricket nymph risotto. Try the deep-fried tarantula, the bloomin’ onion of arachnids.

Gordon is known as “the bug chef,” and has written one of the more comprehensive cookbooks showcasing bugs and their kin. He is also a true believer in insects as a food source for an ever-hungrier planet, as laid out in a lengthy U.N. report last year.

Billy V / Flickr

Fighting fires is a dangerous job, and new research on firehouses around Washington state has revealed another hazard — one that lurks on firefighters’ boots, their trucks and even their TV remotes.

MRSA is a nasty and sometimes deadly bacterium that’s hard to kill with antibiotics. It’s normally associated with hospitals, nursing homes or prisons, but researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health recently tested 33 firehouses for the presence of MRSA. They found the bug at 19 of those firehouses. Twelve crews reported having at least one member who’d gotten an infection requiring medical care.

Charles Krupa / AP Photo

When a traumatic event happens, some people find ways to cope while others get caught in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder. A new study led by a Seattle researcher and enabled by an unexpected disaster suggests a way we might be able to predict who’s most likely to struggle.

Gabriel Spitzer

The human papillomavirus is a bit like a tiny hacker — black hat, of course — that sneaks into your cells, hijacks your hardware and uses it to copy itself. For nearly 80 million Americans, this is happening right now, and nearly all sexually-active people will pick up HPV at one time or another.

For a smaller number of us, that bit of forced entry touches off a chain of events that leads to cancer — mainly cervical cancer, but also penile, rectal, throat and tongue cancers. If scientists could figure out exactly how that happens, they might able to intervene and disrupt the process.

Map by Malcolm Griffes

Twenty four retailers around Washington state received a special email today, giving them official approval to open their doors and start selling marijuana. The licenses clear the way for the state’s first recreational pot shops to open sometime Tuesday.

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Federal regulators are taking Bellevue-based T-Mobile to court, accusing the company of billing customers for services they never signed up for.

Those services might include flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip.

Petros Giannakouris / AP Photo

Health plans in Washington state can’t refuse to cover services for transgender people if the same procedures are covered for others, according to a statement from the state insurance commissioner.

It’s not uncommon for private health plans to exclude gender transition procedures and medical services related to them. That’s what happened to Gwen Yeh of Seattle, who said her Premera plan wouldn’t pay for hormones or the frequent blood work she needed as part of her move toward living as a woman.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has issued a sweeping call for a “summer of safety,” an integrated approach to public safety that would lead to longer-term priority.

Standing before members of the Seattle City Council Wednesday, Murray touched on police reform, racial disparities, infrastructure and mental health. He said up to now, there has been a sense that the city doesn’t really have a clear, coordinated strategy for fighting crime and disorder.

Scott MacLeod Liddle / Flickr

The nation’s largest association of pediatricians is recommending parents read to their children starting at birth. Research by Seattle-area scientists suggests kids can indeed benefit from hearing lots of language right from day one – or even earlier,  even though most kids don’t start talking until they’re at least a year old.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

A group of Northwest scientists are sprinkling the landscape around Mount St. Helens with high-tech sensors as part of a new effort to map the volcano’s deep plumbing.

Scientists have a pretty good understanding of what’s happening right under the mountain, where a big chamber periodically fills up with magma before an eruption. Now they’re looking deeper — down dozens of miles — to the tubes and tunnels that feed that chamber.

An administrative law judge who accused the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner of pressuring her to rule in its favor broke her silence Monday, but she told lawmakers she’s not allowed to give them the whole story.

Patricia Petersen appeared before the state Senate Law and Justice Committee. She said she wants to tell the legislators what’s behind her spat with the OIC, including her accusation that the agency’s second-in-command pressured her to rule in the office’s favor.

But Petersen, in her first public comments since lodging a whistleblower complaint against her boss, said the commissioner gave her a gag order on the matter while it’s being investigated.

Courtesy of Bob Wood.

Editor's Note: “Senior Thesis” is a special week-long series that brings together venerable veterans in various fields with university students hoping to forge a career in the same field.

Bob Wood and Carolyn Wortham sat opposite each other in the KPLU studio, separated by a generation during which a whole lot had happened.

Between the time that Dr. Wood took up arms against the AIDS epidemic and when Wortham took on the same fight, the illness has gone from mysterious killer to manageable condition. The battlefield had moved, to some extent, from urban gay neighborhoods to the developing world.

Bebeto Matthews / AP Photo

New research suggests that bike share programs have a downside, but the program Seattle is launching this fall will have a key feature that could help mitigate it.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Washington State University looked at bicycle injury data from 10 major cities, both with and without bike share programs. They found that when a city gets a bike share program, a higher proportion of injuries to its cyclists are head injuries. 

Courtesy of the Wshington Holocaust Education Resocure Center

The nation’s newest Holocaust museum, and the first in Washington state, is about to be unveiled in downtown Seattle. Its founders hope it will connect lessons from history with present-day issues.

The people behind the Holocaust Center for Humanity have been working in Washington classrooms for decades. Now they’ll have a permanent home in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, where teachers, students and the public can come to them.

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.”

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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