If you need a more accessible version of this website, click this button on the right.Switch to Accessible Site

Lathrup Village Chiropractor | Lathrup Village chiropractic care | MI | Our Practice

Tooma Chiropractic

28455 Southfield Rd. Lathrup Village, MI 48076

(248) 559-2959

Our Practice

Update: Tooma of Detroit

Almost 50 years later, the Tooma Clinic carries on a tradition

By Todd Stumpf


Editor’s note: When Chiropractic Economics, published for four years as a periodic newsletter, made its debut as a regularly published magazine, it spotlighted Tooma Chiropractic in Detroit, Mich. Tooma still operates as a successful chiropractic clinic, although the original owner, Dr. Edward Tooma, sold the clinic in 1991 and later died. Here in italics we excerpt portions of the original article, as we again spotlight Tooma Chiropractic in our Commemorative Anniversary issue.

Often the doctor who succeeds is the one who is skillful and who adopts a humane attitude or approach to the patients. This procedure is easy to get into if you consider the patient to be worthy of your attention.”

Those words, written by Herman S. Schwartz, DC, appeared on page 13 of the July/August 1958 issue of the Digest of Chiropractic Economics. They, along with the article’s title, “Patients are People,” still ring very true today.

Schwartz’s contribution to Chiropractic Economics fell on the same page as the end of a story about a practice known as Tooma Chiro-practic Clinic in the Highland Park suburb of Detroit. The Tooma article was similar to the “Success Profiles” featured in many of today’s issues.

As much as chiropractic has changed, it has remained virtually the same over the 50 years the magazine has been published. The profession, though technologically injected with all sorts of high-tech equipment, has maintained the same focus, as has the basic purpose of this magazine and this section — helping DCs better their practices and themselves.

Likewise, Tooma Chiropractic goes on as it did in that day. It has a new building, a new doctor running the show and many new patients (though some have indeed been around throughout the history of the practice).


Old feel remains

Architecturally [the clinic] is spacious and its lines — while following the pattern of most up-to-date chiropractic clinics in Detroit — have individuality of their own. Architecturally, it dominates its neighborhood.

This paragraph describes the original Tooma Chiropractic Clinic, which stood in what was then much more of a suburb than it is today. But the original office, destroyed by fire in the late 1960s, was replaced by the current building, a few miles up the road.

The modern-day office still has a bit of the old feel. Also a free-standing building, it covers 1,800 square feet and has four adjusting rooms. Outside is a large oak tree, belying its place in the strip-mall world that is the Detroit suburbs.

Inside are four adjusting tables, an aqua chair, disc rehabilitation units and other various equipment that were nowhere to be found in the 1950s.

Looking back at the Tooma Clinic

A fire in the mid-1960s destroyed the original Tooma Clinic. Dr. Tooma himself left the clinic for good in 1993, two years after selling it.

But both the man and the spirit of the original practice can be seen throughout the modern-day version of the clinic, which still thrives more than a decade after its founder moved on for good. Many things about the Tooma Clinic are the same today in terms of how things are done. The biggest changes have been necessitated by advances in technology and chiropractic know-how. The philosophies, however, haven’t wavered.

“The Tooma Clinic today is a mix of old and new,” Bleggi says. “I have begun to specialize in disc rehabilitation, using techniques taught by Dr. Tooma, along with technology that was not available in his time.”

After the fire, the clinic was reopened in 1967 in the suburb of Lathrup Village, 20 miles northwest of the original location. Most of Tooma’s patients made the trip to the new clinic.

“He maintained it meticulously and we continue in that same building,” says Bleggi, who has been at the clinic for almost 20 years and owner for the past 13. He noted the clinic has been redecorated a handful of times over the years, most recently two years ago.

Tooma sold the practice to Bleggi in 1991 and stayed on for two years, working part-time until his retirement. His health began declining in the early ’90s — “I was fortunate to be here at that time to continue for him,” Bleggi said — and in 1997, due to complications of a blood disorder, Tooma died. He was, according to Bleggi, in good spirits until the end.

Now, seven years since his death, Tooma can still be seen and felt around his clinic, if not actually heard.

“Dr. Tooma’s enthusiasm for the profession remains with the clinic,” Bleggi says. “He was very dedicated to chiropractic.”

“The Tooma name has remained with the practice because of its outstanding reputation and longevity,” says Dr. Nick Bleggi, who began working at the clinic in the 1980s before purchasing the practice from Tooma in 1991. “There are patients who had not been treated in many years, but always remember the Tooma Clinic when it’s time to see a chiropractor.”

We took a seat with a half dozen of Dr. Tooma’s patients and observed the effect the room had upon them. Each of my companions seemed to find tranquility in the room … The spell of the room itself created an atmosphere of restfulness.

Creating an atmosphere was a lesson Bleggi learned from Tooma and it remains today. His waiting area/lobby is nicely appointed, comfortable and homey. It has been frequently redecorated, most recently in 2002.

“It’s beautiful,” Bleggi says of the reception area. “We get a lot of compliments on our waiting room.”


Linked by similar stories

[Tooma] started out like most men — married, and with a family to support and no resources except that which he earned professionally. The earnings were slim. In this experience he was like scores of his fellow chiropractors starting out in practice.

Bleggi’s story is not identical to his mentor’s, but similar. Prior to considering a career in chiropractic, he was planning to become an accountant. Like a lot of DCs, his own success as a chiropractic patient led him to the profession.

In what would wind up a very nice twist of fate, Bleggi, along with his parents and sisters, went to Tooma as patients.

“Dr. Tooma was generous with his time in explaining the nature of healing powers of the body and encouraged me to learn more about the profession,” Bleggi recalls. “Toward that end, he financed a weekend seminar for me [when Bleggi was still in high school] to attend at Sherman College.”

To supplement his income [Tooma] worked nights in the Ford factory. Then he undertook an experiment. He began to advertise, using a newspaper type of direct mail. From the beginning, the advertisement took hold and he was able to devote full time to his practice.

B.J.’s endorsement of the Tooma Clinic

“The biggest highlight of Dr. Tooma’s career was the dedication of his clinic by Dr. B.J. Palmer on Sept. 22, 1953,” Bleggi says. “It was supposedly the only one ever dedicated by B.J. and it was a very exciting day.”

Palmer, as Bleggi tells it, received a police escort from the airport to the dedication, which was attended by local dignitaries and included a lengthy speech outlining the philosophy of chiropractic. Many of Tooma’s patients attended the dedication.

A few days later, Tooma received a letter from Palmer praising his clinic and explaining that had it not been designed to such high standards, Palmer would not have agreed to the dedication. A week before the dedication, Palmer arrived unannounced at Tooma’s clinic and scoured it, looking for anything that might cause him to not want to dedicate the clinic.

He found nothing and later went out of his way to tell Tooma exactly what he had and hadn’t found. The letter is a staple of the Tooma Clinic today.


B.J.’s letter to Dr. Tooma

Sept. 23, 1953

Edward S. Tooma, D.C.

16950 Wyoming

Detroit, Michigan


Dear Dr. Tooma:

This is the day after the dedication of your wonderful, efficient, beautifully equipped and artistically developed clinic.

As you know, I toured through all of your rooms, and even looked into the closets and I found everything of the highest order, strictly chiropractic in rendering service to the sick. I talked with many of your patients, at the banquet and afterwards and found them highly enthusiastic and tremendously pleased with you, personally and professionally.

The personnel of your clinic, receptionist and assistants, are all pleasant, courteous and efficient — in fact, with the exception of our own Research Clinic here, I think I can say that you have the finest individualistic clinic I have ever seen and you know I am not given to saying things I don’t mean.

I want to thank you again for inviting me to dedicate your clinics. It was a pleasure to be with you and more than anything else, it does my heart good to see a man of your caliber sustaining the things we have preached and fought for all down through the years. I know the future is bright for you, and I wish a thousand wishes for that new hospital which I know you will build because you are a man of indomitable courage, and I know it will come true.



B.J. Palmer


That’s where Bleggi’s story forks a bit from Tooma’s. In Tooma’s day, licensing and professional requirements weren’t as stringent as today. Nor were educational requirements, internships, associations, etc.

“Back then you’d get your license and you’re practicing,” Bleggi says. “But he wasn’t making a lot of money in the beginning.”

Dr. Tooma has only been practicing for nine years and during the peak months of his practice he has as high as 2,000 appointments. This may or may not be a record, but let us agree that it is a handsome practice and one we wish every chiropractor in the country enjoyed.

Tooma’s 2,000-a-month pace — about 100 patients a day — would be strenuous by any standards. Bleggi’s practice is less demanding. His philosophy is to spend more time with each patient and consequently appointments are far more inclusive. Patients may spend up to a half-hour during a visit.

“He’d work on somebody for about a minute,” Bleggi says of Tooma’s early years. “We’re spending a lot longer per patient. So there are only so many you can see a day.”

Windows of opportunity

Recalling his tutelage under Tooma, Bleggi fondly remembers his mentor’s enthusiasm and the vim and vigor with which he worked. Seeing 2,000 patients each month at the height of his practice, Tooma was naturally energetic and motivated.

“Working with Dr. Tooma was like working with the Energizer bunny,” Bleggi says. “He was many years older than I was but had the energy and enthusiasm of someone much younger. He influenced me greatly by always stressing that you need to be super positive with people, especially when they are not feeling that great.”

Staying upbeat and energetic was one of the many things Bleggi learned from Tooma about practicing chiropractic. Since the early days of the Tooma Clinic in the 1950s, technological advances and techniques have changed the way the science is practiced physically. The fundamentals, however, have remained the same.

Way back when, Tooma came up with a means of making sure his associates were doing things the way he wanted or perhaps for them to see exactly how he, himself, did them.

Tooma’s original clinic included a drape-covered one-way mirror. The idea was that when new DCs came to work with Tooma, they could observe him through the one-way glass without disturbing the patient.

The adjoining rooms had a microphone/speaker system to allow the other doctor to hear what was being said between doctor and patient. Tooma said then it was to allow new associates to familiarize themselves with the clinic’s techniques.

“The one-way window … was at the original clinic in Detroit,” Bleggi says. “I never worked at that location, but I always felt privileged that I had a six-year window to learn from him.”


Different times and methods

Bleggi’s approach to patient care is different from Tooma’s. Not only have the methods changed a bit, patients’ choices have also exploded. Today no fewer than 19 chiropractors share the same zip code as the Tooma Clinic.

“There are many chiropractors in the area now,” Bleggi says. “It’s almost impossible to get that many [patients].”

After a few years, [Tooma] was able to enlarge his clinic to its present proportions. He assured us, however, that in order to maintain the large size of his practice, he has had to consistently advertise. He began to advertise, using a newspaper-type of direct mail. From the beginning, the advertising took hold and he was able to devote full time to his practice.

“His advertising helped educate people searching for alternative solutions to their health problems,” says Bleggi, who also uses mailing among his various advertising methods, but professes that word-of-mouth is his most successful means. “Many more people today are aware of the benefits of chiropractic care. Satisfied patients are eager to refer their friends and family to the Tooma Clinic.”

In Tooma’s early days, he had a small staff. By the time Bleggi came on board in 1986 after graduating from Life Chiropractic College, the clinic employed two doctors and four chiropractic assistants. Today Bleggi is the lone DC and he employs three assistants.

Throughout the seven years he worked alongside his mentor — the last two of which as his pseudo boss — Bleggi soaked in every thing he could.

“By the time I was fortunate enough to join him, Dr. Tooma had been in practice for over 30 years and had so much great experience to share with me,” Bleggi says.

Two thousand appointments a month’s worth, and for this we list the Tooma Chiropractic Clinic as one of the really successful clinics in the nation.

As Bleggi scans the horizon, he pictures himself staying in the profession for the long haul, “helping as many people as I can for as long as I can.” He and his wife have a son and daughter, either of whom he says he would be thrilled to have one day continue the tradition and history of success of the Tooma Clinic.

Then maybe they could be the subject of a story in the 75th anniversary issue of Chiropractic Economics.

But back to Herman Schwartz, whose article, like the philosophies of Tooma, might just as easily have been written half a month ago, rather than half a century.

“We need to have confidence in the patient’s ability to get well. But we cannot have that confidence in the patient to get well unless we have confidence in ourselves and the great healing science of chiropractic.”

Dr. Nick Bleggi is a well-trained Lathrup Village Chiropractor providing excellent care.