All (Health) in the Family

Maddie Peters is on her way to becoming a fifth-generation physician.

When lake-area native and Minnetonka High graduate Maddie Peters decided to pursue a career in medicine, she was continuing a rich family tradition. Peters, a first-year medical student at the University of Minnesota, hails from a long line of doctors, from her mom to her great-great-grandfather. With her first semester of medical school nearly under her belt, she looks ahead with anticipation to the future and back with appreciation to her family’s history.

A calling to medicine runs deep in Peters’ family. Her mom, Heidi Peters, is a family physician in Shorewood. Her great-uncle, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were all doctors as well. In fact, her great-great-grandfather, Louis Fritsche, became Minnesota’s first licensed doctor back in 1887. Growing up, however, Peters wanted little to do with the medical field. “I originally wanted to be a teacher,” she says, remembering the days when she would print out worksheets and tutor her three younger siblings. Peters says her mom was always “very quiet and humble about her practice,” so she grew up knowing little about the nitty-gritty of being a doctor. “In my early, angsty teenager years, I wanted to be nothing like my mother and swore that I would never do medicine,” she says with a laugh.

As Peters grew older, however, she became more curious about the field, asking her mom more in-depth questions about her practice. “Part of my early apathy toward medicine revolved around the misconception that a doctor was exclusively a scientist,” she says. “I had previously thought of medicine as a very objective, systematic practice. I didn’t understand that it was instead more of an art.”

One particular conversation with her mom still stands out as a turning point for Peters. “She told me [that] being a doctor is a lot like being a teacher—as a doctor, you educate patients on healthy lifestyles and encourage patients to invest in their wellbeing,” she says. That inspired Peters to explore a career in medicine. As an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she worked as a certified nursing assistant at a senior living center in Minnesota over the summer and as a student medical assistant on campus.

Both experiences transformed her understanding of what it meant to practice medicine. “At the university clinic, in particular, patients would come in with a whole slew of classic college aliments—fatigue, colds, coughs, headaches, etc. However, more often than not, these students were also experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression that caused these conditions,” she says. “Many times they were overwhelmed and simply looking for guidance, lifestyle education or mental health resources. At this point, I grew passionate about comprehensive health. I knew that I wanted to utilize preventive and holistic approaches to health in my future practice.”

Peters graduated from UW-Madison in May with a degree in biology and English and started medical school at the U of M early this fall. “So far, it’s been a wonderful experience,” she says of her first semester. In four years, she’ll graduate with her M.D. and is hoping to specialize in family medicine— just like her mom.