Former actor and comedian finds place for humor in career as oncologist
It wasn’t exactly the traditional path to medical school.
Before thoughts of anatomy lab and pathology textbooks even crossed his mind, Stuart Bloom, M.D., Class of 1995, was cracking one-liners onstage in New York City. He wrote and performed songs as a regular at the Improv Comedy Club and did a lot of musical theater. “I was usually the funny guy in musicals,” Bloom says. “The funny guy usually doesn’t have to sing as well.”
Bloom spent most of the 1980s acting in New York, playing his biggest role in a nationally touring Broadway show. Although he enjoyed the work—when he could get it—Bloom knew he didn’t want to act for the rest of his life.
Then in 1988, three things changed: Bloom “finally: finished his undergraduate degree in acting at New York University, he turned 30 and realized he wasn’t rich and famous, and his father was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
After a little soul-searching and hours spent watching a truly caring relationship develop between his father and his doctor, Bloom told his wife he had made a decision: He wanted to be an oncologist.
“She then committed me to the insane asylum for three years,” he jokes. “No, it was really a bolt out of the blue. I really heard a gong.”
So at age 33, Bloom entered medical school at the University of Minnesota. Today, at age 48, he’s a hematologist and oncologist at the Humphrey Cancer Center at North Memorial Outpatient Center in Robbinsdale.
Bloom may have changed careers, but he hasn’t changed his philosophy on life. “You need humor in medicine,” he says. “Humor is a part of life.”
As an oncologist, Bloom takes care of people during a very intense, often terrible time in their lives. There have definitely been very sad and serious moments in his office, he says, especially when he has had to deliver bad news. “There have also been times when I can’t stop laughing and patients can’t stop laughing.”
Those who have worked closely with Bloom have witnessed the wide range of emotions he experiences with his patients. Katie Rau, a second-year medical student who spent three weeks in Bloom’s office this summer for a preceptorship, says Bloom’s patients have appreciated his sense of humor.
“It’s an incredibly difficult job, but he seems to strike [the right balance],” Rau says.
Bloom’s nurse, Annette Rivard, R.N., says his attitude puts people at ease. “He has a unique gift that he’s able to share with his patients,” she says. “They feel better just seeing him.”
And for Bloom, it’s all in a day’s work. Maybe laughter is the best medicine.
“Just because people have serious, life-threatening diseases, it
doesn’t mean they can’t have fun,” he says. “After all, you’re alive
until you’re dead.”