For 57 years, Westville-based veterinarian Dr. Carol Bloom has devoted her life to ensuring the animals in the area – both large and small – receive the care they deserve. However, being a veterinarian is much more than a mere occupation to Bloom: it is her passion.
“I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian because I love animals,” Bloom said. “I've tried to dedicate myself to the community and help people with their horses, dogs, cats, and cows. I don't make house calls anymore, but I'm always here to answer questions and give people advice about their animals’ health. I'm always here for them. Everybody says, ‘Doc, why don't you quit?’ And I say, ‘Well, why would I quit something I really like? I’m not working – I'm having fun!’”
Bloom was born and raised in Galien, Michigan. She grew up on her father’s farm, which was also home to about 100 horses and many cows. Bloom’s upbringing established her affection for large and small animals and instilled within her the desire to be a veterinarian. Bloom was an avid participant in Berrien County’s 4-H program during her school years and she would display her dairy cows, cattle, and horses at annual events.
In the late 50s, during her senior year of high school, Bloom’s principal told her she ought to go into another field since it wasn’t proper for a lady to be a veterinarian. Yet Bloom remained unswayed. Upon graduating from high school, she applied to study veterinary science at Michigan State University (MSU). The admission board, which was made up of three men, denied her application on the grounds that they did not believe women would ever practice medicine. Driven by her love for animals and her desire to care for them, Bloom promised the board that she would be back to reapply.
“I waited and went back the next year,” Bloom said. “I met with the same three men on the board. They said ‘We didn’t think you meant it when you said you’d be back.’ I said ‘I'll be back again if you don't take me.’ Well, they took me that time.”
Bloom began her veterinary studies at MSU alongside 61 other students, two of whom were women. Of the three women in the class, only Bloom and one other woman graduated. Bloom continues to express her gratitude for the support that she received during her time at MSU.
“I had wonderful professors at Michigan State,” she said. “I look back now and see these men were some of the best professors. They always encouraged me. I was very, very fortunate. The professor who was head of the equine surgery and medicine department at Michigan State took a liking to me. He knew I was interested in working with horses and so he let me do a lot of special surgeries with him. He taught me a lot of things that were very pertinent at that time. I was very lucky.”
While at MSU, Bloom gained a lot of hands-on experience through internships. During her junior year, she participated in an internship where she worked with thoroughbreds in Phoenix, Arizona. In Bloom’s senior year, she did an internship with Dr. Tom Duncan, an MSU alumnus, at the harness horse racing tracks in Chicago. Duncan hired her at the race tracks several years before she graduated from MSU with her doctorate in 1966. While Bloom was working at the horse tracks, she met her husband Don, a horse trainer from Canada.
“My husband’s occupation was a complement to mine, so we worked together,” Bloom said. “He would rehabilitate the horses after I did surgery on them and then we’d return them to the track. We ran a large operation for many years when they were popular in Chicago and its suburbs. I’ve worked at places like Washington Park Race Track, Hawthorne Racing Course, Sportsman's Park, Maywood Park, Balmoral Park and Arlington Park.”
In an effort to minimize the possibility of cheating in horse races, the Illinois Racing Board mandates that a veterinarian cannot be on the track at the same time as a horse and its trainer. This made things difficult for Bloom and her husband’s business, so the couple decided that Bloom would continue working at the tracks. Don returned to the Westville farm that Bloom had purchased in 1964 to raise a herd of purebred Angus cattle. In the early 90s, after having worked at the Chicago race tracks for over 30 years, Bloom moved back to the farm as well. She went on to dedicate herself full-time to the animal clinic that she and her husband had opened in Westville a few years earlier, Bloom Animal Clinic. Although the clinic had only provided services for horses up to that point, the couple added facilities to accommodate small animals once Bloom returned from Chicago. Bloom, who continues to run the practice today, says that she now takes care of more small animals than she does large animals. However, they all hold the same value in her eyes.
“When I look back over my 57 years as a veterinarian, the thing that's primarily kept me going is my passion for animals,” Bloom said. “I have worked on a lot of expensive animals, like $5 million horses. I've also worked on the $500 horse which is just as important as that $5 million horse. I’ve worked on the dog that’s only a little mutt but is just as important as the dogs that are purebred. It doesn’t matter.”
Bloom says that, to unwind, she seeks out the joy that comes from spending time with her husband, four children, and her grandchildren. One of Bloom’s favorite leisure activities is to watch her grandkids show their cattle every year at livestock shows.