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While it’s no secret that UCity is full of inspiring, intelligent, community-minded people, it’s good to be reminded of that every now and then.That’s why we’re taking a look at some of the most noteworthy people in our area. They are surgeons and a law enforcement official, a broadcasting leader and famous dads-giving-back – all drawing attention for what they’re doing in our backyards and beyond. Dr. Gajewski and Dr. FerraroYou may not realize it, but major medical advances are taking place at Carolinas Medical Center’s University City location. One such advance occurred thanks to the ingenuity of Dr. Timothy A. Gajewski (“Dr. G” for short) and Dr. Roberto F. Ferraro, of the Urology Specialists of the Carolinas.Though the practice has eight offices in the Charlotte area, they are firmly rooted in UCity where they have access to the DaVinci Robot, a surgical instrument so expensive and specialized that there are only three in the entire city. However, not only do they have access to it, they use their robot “more than anyone downtown,” said Dr. Gajewski, who admits he and his partner may be “the two busiest urologists in the whole county.”The robot is a computerized remote control device that the doctors manipulate with their feet and hands. The portion of the robot that performs surgeries functions a lot like a human wrist, says Dr. Ferraro, and it allows doctors to conduct precise procedures that are much less traumatic for the human body than surgeries of the recent past. When the robot is used, patients experience less pain, shorter hospital stays, less scarring and blood loss, and their recovery time is shorter.Traditionally, the robot was only used for prostate cancer surgeries or hysterectomies, but Dr. Gajewski and Dr. Ferraro now use it for kidney surgeries. That’s handy since the doctors say this area has a higher instance of kidney stones than anywhere else in the country, a phenomenon Dr. Gajewski blames on the weather, diet and “tea – and not enough water." -- Rhiannon Fionn-BowmanDoug HerbertDoug Herbert’s father was one of the first drag racers, starting his career and racing with legends in the 1940s, legends he introduced to his son. They must have made an impression.Today, Herbert is a “Top Fuel” drag race driver and the owner of Doug Herbert Performance, which he recently moved to the University City area from Lincoln County. ‘There’s so much going on here,” he says, “it just makes sense to move closer to our customers.”However, while business is going well both here and at his company’s California location, Herbert really sparks up when he’s talking about BRAKES – Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe, a nonprofit organization he founded days after his sons, Jon, 17, and James, 12, died in a speeding accident in Cornelius in 2008.That is when Herbert discovered that thousands of teens die in car accidents each year. “I thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing something?’” he recalls asking himself. “If people were dying from anything else, it would be a major epidemic.”Since founding BRAKES, over 3,000 teens – including many of his son’s friends – have participated in the free driving course that is offered here as well as in California, South Carolina and Arizona.Herbert says the program has been good therapy “for me and for others,” even though he admits some teens have to be dragged to the class by their parents. But, he said, they leave saying, "That was pretty cool!"Learn more about BRAKES at www.putonthebrakes.com. -- Rhiannon Fionn-BowmanCapt. Freda LesterAlthough born in Henderson and raised in Raleigh, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. Freda Lester can’t imagine calling any place other than University City home. “When I first stopped on the campus of UNCC as a teenager,” she says, explaining how she accompanied her mother on work-related visits to all of the University of North Carolina campuses, “I fell in love.”So, it’s no surprise that she chose to study there, graduating in 1988 with a degree in Criminal Justice. She also earned a master’s degree in business administration from Pfeiffer University, though she’s hasn’t moved away from UCity since graduating from the police academy.In 2007, the CMPD University Division was created. That same year Lester was promoted to captain and put in charge of it. “It was my dream,” she says, “to be the captain of the area I love so much. I feel like I have a prized possession and that I have a responsibility to make sure it’s always protected, safe and secure.”With that in mind, she admits that she’s never really off duty and that she married her job, foregoing marriage, children and even pets, though she does enjoy spoiling her friend’s children.However, if she could change one thing she would prevent sensationalized media coverage of crimes in UCity.According to her, violent crimes are down in the area, a fact she’s proud of especially given that it’s the third largest population in the city with the highest concentration of apartments and a population that comes and goes in sync with the academic calendar. -- Rhiannon Fionn-BowmanPatti WheelerPatti Wheeler may have acquired her vast NASCAR knowledge thanks to time spent with her father, Humpy, at the racetrack, but she has no one but herself to thank for her successes. In November 2010, she was named the vice president of the University City-based Speed Channel’s programming and production division thanks to her gutsiness, determination and ability to tell a good story – not her father’s credentials.By 15, she was hanging out with network broadcasters at NASCAR races, filling them in on who was who and what was what. Soon, she had the TV bug and was asking them for career advice, to which she said they told her not to worry too much about her major in college – literature in her case – but “to get all the hands on experience she could.” So she did.While attending Belmont Abbey College, she worked full-time at WBTV. By 23, around 1985, she was producing NASCAR races for cable television back when, she says, “cable was the wild west frontier” and everyone was “flying wide open.” Before long, she was running TNN’s sports department and, later, her own production company, producing in-depth documentaries about racing in addition to live shoots and “every other kind of show possible,” she says.A pioneer in race-day broadcasting, she admits there weren’t many roadblocks in her way since the industry was new and, she says, “I didn’t screw up, so they let me keep sitting in the (producer’s) chair.”“I knew what I wanted to do,” she says, “and I’ve never wavered; it just didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t do it.” -- Rhiannon Fionn-BowmanDavid RussellSince joining the UNC Charlotte Music Department faculty in 2009, violinist David Russell has been generating international buzz for the university’s burgeoning program. After 24 years on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music – one of the most renowned conservatories in the world – Russell left Ohio for Charlotte to help build the UNCC music program as the inaugural Anne R. Belk Distinguished Professor of Music. His goal is to develop the UNCC music program into one that’s diverse and distinguished. This summer alone, he’s teaching a special course in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York for his violin students, who will be joined by violinists from across the world, and he’s also taking faculty members to perform in France. These are “some of the greatest colleagues I’ve ever had in my life,” Russell says. “Simply, the rest of the world needs to know about it.”Russell is also orchestrating the second annual chamber music festival in January, which will bring prominent musicians from all over to UNC Charlotte to perform. But the biggest coup for the university is what Russell has planned for April 2012. For years, internationally renowned Israeli violin-maker Ammon Weinstein – one of Russell’s close friends – has been collecting and restoring violins played by Nazi death camp prisoners during World War II. Russell found out about it when he was doing a short-term teaching stint in Israel. “I said, ‘I’ve got to part of that and I’ve got to bring that to Charlotte,’ ” Russell says. The large-scale project, called “Violins of Hope,” will get international attention, Russell says, and museums around Charlotte are catering exhibits to it. UNC Charlotte students will even get to play the violins. “We really enjoyed building the (Cleveland Institute of Music) into something really great,” Russell says. “And now I’m enjoying a second wind of doing that, where I think everything is really ready to explode in a wonderful way.” -- Caroline McMillan Mike MinterThough Mike Minter retired from the NFL in 2007, the former first-string Carolina Panthers player’s career is far from over. In the last four years, he has built an empire, Minter Enterprises, an umbrella organization focused on developing business and community relationships. Minter Enterprises runs the gamut, offering business consulting, contracting, philanthropy, motivational speaking and local football camps. After Minter was drafted by the Panthers, Minter and his wife moved to the University area in 1997. Recently, he served on a committee that helped raise the money to bring the much-hyped football program to UNCC.About five years ago, Minter, his wife and their four kids – Michael, 16; Isaiah, 14; and 9-year-old twins Brianna and McKenna – moved to Kannapolis. Minter started coaching the high school football team at First Assembly Christian in Concord three years ago, and has brought the team to the state championship every year. They’ve won the past two state championships. Before Minter, First Assembly had never sent a student to college on an football athletic scholarship. In the last three years, they’ve sent 12. Minter’s summer football camps, called “I Am a Foot Soldier,” are designed to teach 7- to 18-year-olds the value of academics, attitudes and athletics. “What I tell kids is this: There’s an enemy out there trying to stop you from reaching your dreams. self-doubt, fear, laziness, undiscipline – that’s the enemy we fight,” Minter says. “When you start to realize the teacher is not your enemy, the police are not your enemy, your parents are not your enemy, we focus.” Minter has added another facet to his camps this year. All of the kids who attend the camps will be assigned mentors who will keep up with them throughout the year. This is where the foot-soldier-army analogy steps in, Minter says. “There are generals out there, people who have already been through the fight and understand what’s in the fight. One way to (help the kids) do that is to stay in touch.” -- Caroline McMillan

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