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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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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Harborview Clinics
5:01 am
Fri January 24, 2014

As Clinics Face Uncertain Future, Harborview Staffers Plead For Answers

Harborview Medical Center is considering changes in how it delivers primary care.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center is considering big changes in the way it delivers primary care, with clinics serving thousands of patients hanging in the balance. And frustrated staffers are pleading with hospital brass to explain what’s going on.

Harborview may be best known as the region’s trauma center, but it runs a handful of primary care clinics at its First Hill campus, offering services such as obstetrics, pediatrics and family medicine.

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Patient Safety
2:19 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Seattle Children's Patients At Risk Of Infection From Improperly-Cleaned Tools

Courtesy of Seattle Children's Hospital

Seattle Children’s Hospital is notifying about 100 patients who could be at risk of serious infection due to improperly-cleaned medical instruments.

Hospital officials say the risk is small, but substantial enough to warrant letters and phone calls to patients who had colonoscopies using a tool called an auxiliary channel scope. Unlike standard scopes, these instruments have an extra tube that needs to be cleaned between uses.

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Marijuana Business
3:34 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

I-502 Author Says Attorney General Got It Wrong On Pot Business Bans

Dozens of cities and counties have places bans or moratoriums on marijuana businesses.
Associated Press

Washington’s Attorney General buoyed local governments looking to block pot businesses with a legal opinion issued Thursday. His argument cites the intentions of those who wrote the state’s the pot law, but the initiative’s primary author said he got it wrong.

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Medicaid
3:38 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Glitches Put Tens of Thousands In Danger Of Losing Medicaid

File image
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Glitches that kept tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients from re-enrolling this fall continued to trip people up in December, though the state agency that runs Medicaid said the problems are being fixed.

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Public Transportation
2:27 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Constantine Announces Tax Proposal To Avoid Major Bus Cuts

King County Metro Transit's Facebook Page

King County is through waiting on Olympia.

The county is moving forward with its own measure to avoid major service cuts to Metro Transit, King County Executive Dow Constantine said on Tuesday.

“We waited and we waited, and now time is up,” Constantine said. “We are out of time for a statewide bill that includes a local transportation solution. It is time to move forward.”

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Brain Training
5:07 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

10 Hours Of Brain Training Keeps Elderly Sharper Even 10 Years Later, Study Finds

istockphoto.com

Scientists have long known that brain training can help older adults stay sharp, but a new study co-authored by a Seattle scientist shows those benefits also have remarkable staying power.

The advantages from just a little bit of training — about 10 total hours — can last at least a full decade, according to a large national study called the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly, or ACTIVE study. 

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Affordable Care Act
5:01 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Wash. Health Exchange Looking To Skew Younger

Elaine Thompson AP Photo

A diverse group of people have signed up for private health insurance on Washington's state-run exchange, but officials say they still need more young people on board. 

As of Jan. 2, some 71,205 people had enrolled in private plans on Washington's health insurance exchange, a good deal less than the goal of 130,000. But Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said it’s still on the low end of the expected range.

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Public Health
2:16 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Study: Anti-Smoking Campaign Saved 5 Busloads Of People Every Day For 50 Years

File image
AP Photo

Fifty years ago this weekend, the U.S. surgeon general released a landmark report blaming smoking for a number of health risks.

A new study co-authored by Seattle researchers says the campaign against smoking has saved about eight million lives since. That’s more than the population of Washington state, or put another way, it’s like preventing about five full Metro buses from driving off a cliff every day for 50 years.

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Bertha, The Boring Machine
2:00 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

What's Blocking Bertha? Probably A Steel Pipe The State Put There, WSDOT Says

WSDOT

A steel pipe that the state Department of Transportation itself had installed back in 2002 sits in the way of Bertha underneath Seattle, WSDOT said on Friday, and it may be the cause of the weeks-long work stoppage.

An inspection on Jan. 2 “showed an 8-inch-diameter steel pipe protruding through one of the many openings in the cutterhead,” WSDOT said, adding the agency had installed the pipe, a well casing, in the wake of the 2001 Nisqually quake to better understand groundwater flow. 

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Drug Crime
5:26 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

High-Profile Tacoma Pot Activist Booked On Cold Case Drug Murder

One of Schaef's former businesses in Tacoma allowed people to "vape" in a bar setting.
Paula Wissel KPLU

Pierce County law enforcement officials say they’ve cracked a cold case murder that happened more than 20 years ago, and the investigation has ensnared a high-profile Tacoma marijuana activist.

Michael Schaef is a self-styled cannabis consultant who’s run medical marijuana dispensaries and co-founded a Tacoma “vape bar” that operated, until it was shut down, in a gray area of Washington’s pot law.

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Brain Injuries
5:01 am
Thu January 2, 2014

NFL Money Will Fund Seattle Doctor's Concussion Research

Concussions often don't show up on brain scans.
Matthew Purdy Flickr

The National Football League is paying for a Seattle scientist to study head injuries in student athletes, testing a solution to the problem of how to diagnose and measure concussions.

With all the focus on sports and head trauma lately, it may come as a surprise that medicine actually doesn’t have great ways to measure common brain injuries. They don’t usually show up on brain scans, even though we know they can cause serious and lasting neurological problems.

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Minimum Wage
1:29 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Seattle Mayor-Elect Murray Pulls Sawant Into His Minimum Wage Task Force

FILE - Mayoral candidate state Sen. Ed Murray smiles during a news conference Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Seattle’s incoming mayor has convened a task force to study boosting the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, and he has asked incoming socialist city council member Kshama Sawant to join.

Mayor-Elect Ed Murray said he believes it is a necessary step toward tackling economic inequality, but he also insists he is not prejudicing the outcome of the committee. In addition to Sawant, his 23-member task force includes business interests, organized labor and community groups.

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Project Violet
5:01 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Seattle Scientists Look To Make Drug Research More Like Fantasy Football

Steve Brooks shows his three-year old daughter Eliza a drug scaffold based on a Petunia protein.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a two-part series. Learn how scorpion vemon led local researchers to the brink of discovery of a new class of drugs in Part 1.

Consider the chemical elegance of a potato. Or a petunia. Or a horseshoe crab.

Somewhere in each of those organisms is a special little protein uniquely equipped to do what medicines do: barge in on biological processes and mess with them. With a little tweaking, it’s possible they could be trained to, say, keep cancer cells from spreading.

A few years ago, Dr. Jim Olson and his team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center had figured out how to make those proteins by the thousands, but they hadn’t yet figured out how to pay for it.

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Drug Discovery
5:01 am
Tue December 17, 2013

How A Scorpion's Sting Led Seattle Scientists To The Brink Of Discovery

Dr. Jim Olson is exploring a whole new class of drugs, based on his work with a scorpion toxin that helps fight cancer.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

The Deathstalker scorpion is about the size of your palm. It’s yellow and surly, its venom a seething cocktail of neurotoxins.

And somewhere in that poison soup is a very special little molecule, called chlorotoxin, designed to penetrate a prey animal’s brain. That effect happens to come in very handy: while it’s in there, it sticks to cancer cells while slipping right by healthy ones.

Jim Olson, a pediatric oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, put that toxin to work.

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