Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Is There a Doctor in the House?


By Amy Kennard

You’d think having two doctors for parents and growing up in a hospital environment would automatically land you in medical school—and you’re right—kind of.
Dr. Beth Nielsen (Beth) is a pulmonary/critical care physician and locum tenens physician. A locum, or locum tenens, is someone who travels to different hospitals to temporarily fill in for another physician. Though her current home base is Brookfield, Wisconsin, she’s currently working at Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Illinois, with her next stop at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bloomington-Normal.
Though Beth and her medical credentials can stand on their own, around Bloomington-Normal she’s more likely to be known as Beth, the daughter of physicians and founders of The Vein Specialists Dr. Kathy Bohn and Dr. Tom Nielsen. This husband-and-wife team and their partner, Dr. Richard Castillo, opened the Vein Specialists in 2011, the first vein clinic in Bloomington-Normal offering state-of-the-art treatments including endovenous laser treatments and ultrasound, therapeutic and cosmetic sclerotherapy.

But First, the ER
Dr. Bohn (Kathy) first moved to Bloomington-Normal as a student at Illinois State University, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After completing her medical school training and residency in family medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine where she met her husband, Dr. Tom Nielsen (Tom), they relocated back to Bloomington in 1987 to work in emergency medicine at Carle BroMenn, followed by OSF Saint Joseph Medical Center.
“Tom and I both trained in family medicine,” explained Kathy, “so the question often comes up, ‘How did you end up in the ER?’ Well, I was two years behind Tom in my residency when we got married, so he did emergency medicine for two years while I finished my training. Then he figured out that with two more years of emergency medicine he could become double-boarded, because that’s the way it worked back then when there weren’t enough ER residencies. Then I figured out if I worked for four years, I could become double-boarded as well, so that’s what we did.”
In 1988, Kathy and Tom welcomed their daughter, Beth, who would subsequently experience more trips to the ER than most kids, simply due to her parents’ profession.

Peanut Butter and Crackers
“It never seemed weird to me to hang out in the ER as a kid because I didn’t know any better,” explained Beth. “I was never exposed to the patient care—I’d sit and draw in the back where the doctors did their paperwork or hang out in the snack room. My favorite snack was the packets of saltine crackers with a tab of peanut butter.”
Growing up with two ER physicians as parents meant that holidays sometimes looked a little different. “One time we had Christmas in the ER—we brought all the presents because we didn’t have time to open them at home,” said Beth. “I have great memories of getting this remote-control robot that we played with in the back room in between patients. And one Thanksgiving we had no time for the traditional turkey dinner, so we had turkey hot dogs—which I thought was awesome!”
Though she grew up around medicine, Beth said her parents never pushed her to go into the field. “They both encouraged me to be my own person and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I enjoyed math and science, so I went to college for math, then moved into physiology. Then I realized that I really liked being around people—I was so used to being in that hospital environment—and that’s when I decided to go into medicine.”
After graduating from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, she attended medical school at the University of Medicine and Health Sciences on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. She completed her internal medicine residency and pulmonology critical care fellowship in Springfield, IL. “I have to say, during my residency and fellowship, there wasn’t much time for a meal, so I’d snack on saltines and peanut butter in between rounds simply because that’s what I grew up snacking on.”
Beth is now at Decatur Memorial Hospital, which was where her father had one of his first jobs. “We both started at Decatur Memorial—my dad in 1985 and me in 2023—which is pretty cool.”

Meanwhile, Back at Mom and Dad’s …
But Beth’s parents are no longer in the hospital setting, nor in emergency medicine. In 2010, after 24 years in emergency medicine, Kathy thought it was time to do something else. “I really didn’t want to retire at that point, but I’d had enough of nights, weekends, holidays, traumas—all the things that involve working in the ER,” she said. “But I also knew it would be strange not to work with Tom—because we had always worked together. That’s when we decided on opening a brand-new practice no one had ever done before in town—a vein clinic.”
“Our business manager, who had helped us with our emergency medicine group, knew another physician who had gotten out of emergency medicine and into vein treatment,” Tom explained. “We traveled up to the Chicago area where Dr. Stephen Rivard (founder and medical director of Illinois Vein Specialists in Barrington, IL) started his vein practice with the help of our business manager. We thought it was a great idea, did our fellowship training with him, and subsequently became board certified in venous and lymphatic medicine.”
Tom and Kathy, along with their partner Dr. Richard Castillo, all trained under Dr. Rivard, with Kathy first completing her advanced training and opening The Vein Specialists in 2010. The year after that, Tom joined the practice, followed by Dr. Castillo.

How the Tables Have Turned
Because Kathy was two years behind Tom in medical school and residency, she often asked him for guidance on processes and procedures when she started in the ER. But since Kathy was the first one in the vein practice, the tables turned. “I became more of the teacher and helped Tom learn the ropes,” she said. “But now, we’re definitely partners—if we have a difficult case or procedure, we talk about it and help each other.”
Working a more regular schedule has its benefits, and both physicians agree. “We’ve definitely rediscovered the community,” said Tom. “We always had odd hours, and we rarely got off on time. Now we’re able to do a lot more activities—we exercise every morning; we have a bicycle group we’ve joined in town; we enjoy jumping on the trail and heading to Uptown Normal for the live music; we’ve renewed some friendships we now have more time for and made some new ones. Getting off work at 4:30 or 5:00 pm and having weekends off—that’s a whole new life!”
On the other hand, Beth isn’t quite as available as she used to be. “There was definitely a shift once my parents moved from the ER to the vein practice,” she said. “They have holidays and evenings and weekends off, and now I’m working all those things. So, when they ask me what I’m doing for Thanksgiving I’m like, “Why would you ask me that? I’m probably working—what do you think I’m doing?” she laughed.

Knowing What Works
Kathy and Tom attribute their successful partnership—both personal and professional—to compromising and giving each other space. “We’ve been together for 39 years,” said Tom, “and there’s been a lot of change during that time. You need to be able to adapt to that change, and also understand and respect that each person needs to take time to do their own things.”
That philosophy extended to their daughter as well. “My parents never made me feel like I had to go into medicine because they were in the field,” said Beth. “I watched them put in the work, I got to travel with them, and I saw the life they created. They gave me the tools to figure out how to be my own person—I just knew if I wanted my life a certain way, I had to go to college, get a job and move out someday.”
Like Kathy and Tom put no pressure on their daughter to go into medicine, the same can be said for her taking over The Vein Specialists someday. “We’ve been so fortunate to have built this unbelievable practice over the past 12 years,” said Tom, “and eventually we’ll retire and would love someone to keep it going. But Beth just started her career and is doing what she’s trained for.”
“I love what I do now at this phase in my life,” said Beth. “I have an interest in end-of-life and palliative care, so after however many years in pulmonary critical care, I might look into that field.” “But,” she said, smiling at her parents, “who knows what’s going to happen in the future, right?”


The Vein Specialists, Kathryn Bohn, MD, Thomas Nielsen, MD and Richard Castillo, MD, are certified by the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine. Learn more or schedule your first appointment at, call 309.862.4000 or visit their Bloomington office at 3302 Gerig Drive, Suite 100.