Growing hearts: Dr. Ken Peters and team serve patients in Southeast Africa
Fifteen years ago, Dr. Ken Peters came home after a full day of seeing patients. His wife, Diane, was watching The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was focused on urologic health challenges in Africa. Ken sat down with her and finished the episode.
“Why don’t you help these people?” Diane asked; a single question that led to nearly two decades of service to the people of Africa.
Dr. Peters, chief of Urology at Beaumont, Royal Oak and professor and chair of Urology at OUWB, partnered with a group of colleagues to plan a trip to Mozambique.
For three years, his group traveled to the country in Sub-Saharan Africa once each year helping patients with incontinence and training the local staff on new techniques and technology.
Dr. Peters’ colleague, Dr. Larry Sirls, worked with him in Mozambique but also spent time in other countries in Africa. Due to safety concerns in Mozambique, the team eventually focused their work in Zambia. After annual trips for 12 years, through philanthropic support, the team has replaced surgical instruments, desks and textbooks, provided an operating room table and lights and improved the lives of hundreds of patients.
The group aims to create sustainability and do things that help the community beyond just the annual visits. They train local doctors on similar techniques his team uses so they can manage patient care until the team returns.
Each year, the Beaumont team is remembered by the community when they return. The neighborhood fills with bright blue Beaumont t-shirts in gratitude for the work the team does. In fact, according to Dr. Peters, the people of Zambia get excited when they arrive and love learning and helping their neighbors. People in the community even give the team gifts such as chickens, goats and honey to express their gratitude.
“Those experiences are hard to put into words,” Dr. Peters said. “The whole experience certainly has a positive impact on everyone involved.”
Going to Zambia not only helps people in need but grounds him as a physician.
“I’ve learned that I get as much out of the trips as the people who are treated do. It reminds me of why I became a physician in the first place. There, you just go to take care of people, not worrying about other stressors.”
Another intangible benefit of this medical mission work is the resident and fellow training. These visits allow them to learn incredible things like training without the assistance of robots and what it is like to have limited equipment in treating patients.
“Going into chief residency after a trip to Zambia, they’re so much more confident, capable and aware of their own abilities,” he added.
After returning home from their recent trip, they invited colleagues from Africa to come to Beaumont to teach the medical staffs about facing challenges across the world and the work they are doing to overcome them. Please enjoy a recording from the latest visit here.
These trips to Africa are funded through the Beaumont Foundation with a fund called “Ingber Africa/International Trip.” If you are interested in contributing to their work, please consider donating during Beaumont’s Spirit of Giving annual fundraising campaign.