James L. Frazier, 35

Neurosurgeon, Mercy Medical Center When James L. Frazier was a little boy, growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., his parents had a firm rule: If he wanted to go outside and play, he had to read first. His earliest notions of science came that way, poring over Charlie Brown's Cyclopedia. His mother, a secretary, shouldered the family finances while his father, a Vietnam veteran, struggled with the effects of Agent Orange. Seeing his dad struggling to walk is a lot of what drove him to become a doctor, particularly one most interested in problems of the brain. He wanted to help him. "The thought was always going through my head, 'Is there any way possible I can remedy this through science or medicine?" Frazier says. "It was another way for me to express my love for him, trying to find a cure." Frazier is married with two daughters, ages 5 and 8. The family lives in Owings Mills. He likes to bring the girls into the hospital, hoping to inspire them. As a neurosurgeon, Frazier specializes in brain tumors, spine fractures, degenerative spine disease. There have been blood clots on the brain, large brain tumors, people whose spines are unstable after accidents or falls. He figures he's already operated on about 500 brains, his hands helping to determine if people will be able to walk, move, breathe. A religious man, he likes to think of his hands as instruments of God. One of his favorite parts of the job is stepping out of the operating room after a tough surgery and going to find the family huddled in the waiting room to tell those gathered that it's going to be OK. "I love the surgical aspects, but I think I get more satisfaction from seeing patients," he says. "That sense from them that they're putting that trust in me. The gratitude. Just being able to come out and talk to them, calm their fears."
Doug Kapustin, Special to The Baltimore Sun
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