BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
These days, Dr. Ken Peters is a globally-known urologist practicing at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
But it was coming from humble beginnings, growing up in Warren and graduating from Clarkston High School in 1982, that led him on his path to where he is today.
“I remember Clarkston High School always had an amazing science component to the curriculum,” said Peters. “They had physics and chemistry and all that stuff, but they also had biology, anatomy and physiology and botany. That was unique and I just thrived in that.”
Peters graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland back in 1991 and started practicing at Beaumont in 1998. He’s now the Chairman of the Department of Urology at Beaumont, as well as Professor and Chairman of Urology at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. A National Institutes of Health-funded researcher, he has performed dozens of studies on interstitial cystitis, as well as the use of neuromodulation to treat voiding dysfunction, lumbar to sacral nerve re-routing to restore voiding in spina bifida patients, and adult human stem cell injection for stress urinary incontinence.
Basically, Peters is a genius.
“It’s all about staying grounded,” said Peters, who lives in Huntington Woods with his wife of almost 31 years, Diane. They have two adult daughters, Anna and Amanda. “I realized a long time ago that when I would see these world-renowned urologists who were famous and who had published all these books and papers, no one will ever forget who they are, but what I learned in my career is that when people die, a couple years later, people go, ‘Who?’ What I’ve come to learn in life is that all that matters is your friends and your family. Those are the only ones who will remember you for truly who you are.
“For me, it’s been important to keep that balance between family and work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve done in my career and how we have advanced the field of urology, but that’s what I thrive on, doing something that no one else is doing. To me, what I do is fun and it’s making an impact, and as long as it’s fun, I’ll keep doing it. It’s been a good run.”
In reflecting on how he became interested in medicine, Peters said he knew when he was 5 years old that he wanted to be a doctor. In high school, he latched on with Dr. James O’Neill, a physician he calls one of his mentors.
“Clarkston, at that time, was a pretty small community,” Peters said. “Dr. O’Neill was pretty much the community physician. He did pediatrics and family medicine. I had met with him in high school and talked about my interest in medicine and he was gracious enough to let me shadow him. He had an urgent care clinic at night, and I spent many nights there alongside him. He was a workaholic and was really just the perfect example of the type of physician that I wanted to be. His compassion and approach to medicine really helped further my interest in wanting to pursue medicine.
So why did Peters choose urology?
“I come from a blue-collar family; we didn’t have a lot of money,” Peters said. “I worked since I was 11 years old. I delivered newspapers, worked at Big Boy and Kroger in Clarkston. I’d tell people when I was younger that I was going to be a doctor and they’d pat me on the head and say, ‘That’s great, Kenny.’ My dad was a factory worker and my mom sold real estate and took care of the kids.
“When I went to medical school, our school would hire out medical students to do odd jobs. About four months into medical school, I was asked to tend bar at a party in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in somebody’s home. Somebody came up to me to order a drink and it happened to be a urologist, Dr. Elroy Kursh. He was just the most amazing person and we spent hours that night talking about urology, and how enthusiastic he was about what he did. I started hanging out with him when I had time and after I got married in medical school, my wife and his wife became friends. It became very clear to me that urology was what I was supposed to do. Plus, how can you not with the last name of Peters, you know?”