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.”

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Affordable Care Act
4:52 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Wash. Health Exchange Beefs Up Call Center For March Rush, Warns Of Long Hold Times

This screen grab shows Washington Healthplanfinder's website.

Washington’s health insurance exchange has ramped up its customer-service call center in anticipation of a big surge in enrollments this month. But callers should still hunker down for a long wait.

The Spokane-based call center got an average of more than 40,000 calls a day in January, but managed to answer just 15 percent of them. Of the rest, the vast majority got a message telling them to give up and call back later, while others hung up due to wait times that averaged 40 minutes or more.

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Gesture Recognition
3:01 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

UW Team Invents Gesture Recognition Technology That Pulls Power From Thin Air

University of Washington

A University of Washington research team has developed technology that could let people control devices with hand gestures. And the sensor doesn’t use battery power; it pulls electricity out of thin air.

Technology to read hand gestures already exists in devices like Microsoft’s Kinect. But most of it uses cameras or beams, which make it expensive and hungry for electricity.

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Harborview Clinics
4:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Harborview Officials Say They Will Not Close Or Relocate Primary Care Clinics

Gabriel Spitzer

Officials overseeing Harborview Medical Center in Seattle have told staff by email they will not be closing or relocating the hospital’s clinics.

The fates of at least three primary care clinics on the main Harborview campus had been up in the air. Officials with UW Medicine, which runs the hospital, had said all along no decisions had been made. But staffers said they’d been told the clinics could close or move as early as this summer.

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Death Penalty
4:02 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Victims' Families Want Curbs On Gov's Ability To Halt Death Penalty

Sen. Steve O'Ban, center, R-University Place, stands in front of a group of family members of murder victims, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, during a news conference at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Family members of murder victims gathered in Olympia Wednesday to express anguish over Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to halt the state’s death penalty.

They testified before lawmakers considering curbs on the governor’s authority to grant reprieves. They told of their daughters and sisters, a mother, an aunt all taken cruelly from them. And they expressed outrage that they should be forced to pay, as taxpayers, for the killers to live.

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Voice Banking
2:04 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Losing Voice To ALS, Kent Man Recording All He'll Ever Want To Say

Carl Moore, a former helicopter mechanic, was diagnosed with ALS 20 years ago.
Justin Steyer KPLU

It's hard to imagine a more devastating diagnosis than ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease. For most people, it means their nervous system is going to deteriorate until their body is completely immobile. That also means they'll lose their ability to speak.

So Carl Moore of Kent worked with a speech pathologist to record his own voice to use later, when he can no longer talk on his own.

Nutrient Supplements
4:18 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Seattle Scientists: Supplements Thought To Protect Against Cancer Increase Risk

vissago Flickr

Two nutrient supplements once thought to protect against cancer may actually increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to a study led by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at 4,856 men taking large doses of vitamin E and selenium, either alone or together, or a placebo.

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Youth Obesity
5:01 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Youth Obesity Drops in King County For The First Time In Years

FILE - Roxhill Elementary students dine on healthy entrees prepared by chef Tom Douglas' staff.
Charla Bear KPLU

After years of flat rates, obesity among adolescents significantly dropped in King County between 2010 and 2012. Public health authorities credit prevention efforts at school.

A handful of school districts in the county made a special effort to push fitness. Some had students track their own nutrition, others invested in top-notch physical education programs or healthier lunch options. Federal stimulus money paid for the Communities Putting Prevention to Work programs.

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Bertha Blues
12:39 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Expert: Bertha's Woes Are No 'Big Dig'

WSDOT

The prospect of taking the State Route 99 tunneling machine known as Bertha offline for as much as half a year is not good news for the company operating it. But one Seattle tunneling expert says it could be worse.

“It’s really a problem with the machine itself. I think it’s something that can be repaired,” said the University of Washington’s Joseph Wartman. “And I think in a couple of years when the tunnel is open, people will have forgotten about this.”

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Marijuana Banking
11:07 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Feds Clear Way For Banks To Do Business With Marijuana Industry

File image
AP Photo

Marijuana businesses in Washington may soon be able to open a bank account. The Obama administration on Friday issued new guidance to banks regarding drug proceeds.

The three-page memo by the Department of Justice signals that banks that do business with licensed, above-board marijuana businesses likely won’t face prosecution.

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Bertha Blues
4:17 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Contractor: Evidence Could Put Taxpayers On The Hook For Bertha Cost Overruns

Seattle Tunnel Partners

Washington transportation officials and the private contractor operating the tunneling machine known as Bertha disagree on what’s holding up progress on the Highway 99 tunnel project. Neither had definitive answers, but appearing together Tuesday at a news conference, it became clear they’re leaning toward conflicting theories.

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Immigrant and Refugee Rights
5:01 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Advocates: Washington Must Ensure 'Basics Are Met' For Refugees And Immigrants

This photo shows a mother and child who participated in the 2013 rally.
James Hall Photography

Advocates plan to rally in Olympia Tuesday in what’s become an annual push for immigrant and refugee rights.

More than a dozen groups plans to make some noise on the Capitol steps and meet with lawmakers on several key issues: restoring previously-cut funds to food aid and job training, and investing in better English-language learner services in public schools.

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Bertha, The Boring Machine
2:27 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Bertha: Broken, Not Blocked, Says WSDOT

This screen grab shows a crew member clearing away clogging dirt from the cutterhead.
WSDOT

Remember that big steel pipe — eight inches wide, part of an old well?

The Washington State Department of Transportation never actually accused that pipe of blocking Bertha, but it was definitely a prime suspect.

But on Friday, WSDOT said the pipe isn’t, and never was, the problem.

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We Are The Champions
12:56 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Some 700,000 Fans Pack Seattle Streets For Seahawks' Victory Parade

Kam Chancellor holds up the Lombardi trophy.
Justin Steyer KPLU

The 12th Man showed up in full force for the Seattle Seahawks’ victory parade on Wednesday. Seattle police estimated some 700,000 people braved the cold to line the streets and cheer for the Super Bowl champions. 

"I think it just gives us a sense of pride. It's given everyone something to rally around and be excited about. It's just brought joy to so many people here," said Lesli Burns, a fan.

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Dark Matter
5:01 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Did UW Researchers Back The Right Horse In One Of Physics' Hottest Questions?

UW researchers assemble the complex ADMX detector, built to search for dark matter axions.
ADMX Collaboration

Think of the immense amount of stuff in the cosmos: stars, planets, interstellar dust and clusters of galaxies. Now consider this: all that stuff is probably only about one-sixth of the matter in the universe.

The rest is thought to be a mysterious invisible substance called dark matter — something scientists have been hunting for decades. Now an unexpected turn of events has put a low-key research team in Seattle right at the center of the dark matter search.

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Health Exchange
5:03 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Glitch Leaves Nearly A Thousand On The Hook For Promised Subsidies

File image
AP Photo

The federal subsidies are what’s supposed to make Obamacare work; people who wouldn’t be able to afford a decent health plan get help to offset the cost.

But nearly a thousand people who bought plans on Washington’s exchange have learned they’ll be on the hook for the full premium this month.  

About 950 people who were supposed to get retroactive coverage won’t have their promised subsidies discounted from their January bill. They’ll still get the money, but they’ll have to wait until they do their taxes in 2015.

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