Dr. Anita Figueredo
1916 - 2010
Anita Figueredo was a friend of the poor, a healer for many and a pioneer in her field.

She was the first female surgeon in San Diego County when she moved to La Jolla in 1947, and one of the first female doctors in the country to specialize in cancer treatment.

She was as comfortable sleeping on a straw mat in Calcutta, where she visited her friend Mother Teresa, as she was staying in luxurious hotels when she traveled with her husband, a La Jolla pediatrician.

She was the mother of nine and was devoted to her family but she always found time for her patients and civic and humanitarian work.

Dr. Figueredo died last Friday at her La Jolla home. She was 93. She suffered a cerebral hemorrhage two weeks before her death.

She was a tiny woman with a huge heart and a great capacity for giving and helping, friends and family members said. In the late 1950s she received many honors, including San Diego's Woman of the Year and a pontifical medal from the pope for her work with the church, the needy and the American Cancer Society. She was also a member of the La Jolla Town Council and a founding trustee of the San Diego College for Women, which later became the University of San Diego.

"She was never too busy to listen and to help others," said friend Jean Colarusso. "She was an amazing woman who was always thinking of others. When I moved here (in 1973), she got me busy (volunteering) in Mexico right away."

Dr. Figueredo later drafted Colarusso and the late Mary Rupp to help her establish the Friends of the Poor charity. Although Dr. Figueredo had spent years helping to feed, clothe and provide medical care to the needy in Baja California, it wasn't until 1982 that she started the nonprofit organization to give U.S. donors a tax-deductible incentive to contribute.

A native of Costa Rica, she was a child when she moved to New York with her mother. According to family lore, the daughter of a seamstress and a soccer player was 5 years old when she told her mother that she wanted to be a doctor. Since there were no medical schools or female doctors in Costa Rica at that time, mother and daughter made the move to the United States.

Her mother worked at a sweatshop and took in piecework to pay for her education. Dr. Figueredo graduated from Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in New York City and from the Long Island College of Medicine in the late 1930s. During World War II, the dearth of male physicians led to her becoming one of the first female surgical residents at a hospital specializing in cancer, which is now Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

She married William Doyle, a medical school classmate, in 1942, and they settled in La Jolla several years later.

Despite giving birth to nine children, Dr. Figueredo maintained a demanding practice in surgical oncology, said son-in-law Brent Eastman, who is chief medical officer of Scripps Health.

"She was my first surgical partner and was one of the best surgeons I ever practiced with. … She had unlimited energy, was exceedingly brilliant and incredibly modest," Eastman said. "She once walked straight from the (operating room) to the maternity ward, where she gave birth and returned to make rounds on her patient the following morning."

Dr. Figueredo revolutionized the approach to cancer in the county with her emphasis on prevention and detection, Eastman said. "She spoke out against smoking long before it was fashionable, and she introduced the (cancer-detection exam) Pap smear to San Diego," he said.

In the late 1950s, Dr. Figueredo read an article about Mother Teresa and her work. She sent a contribution and a letter, and was stunned when she got a response that grew into regular correspondence and a lasting friendship. They met in person in San Diego when Mother Teresa made her first speech outside India in 1960. They went on to work on several charitable projects together.

Eastman said Dr. Figueredo and Mother Teresa were very similar. "They were kindred spirits, though they led very different lives. They were devoted to the poor and they just made things happen."

Dr. Figueredo is survived by three daughters, Sarita Eastman of Rancho Santa Fe, Anita Doyle of La Jolla and Teresa Doyle of La Jolla; three sons, William Doyle of Santa Rosa, John Doyle of San Diego and Charles Doyle of La Jolla; 11 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband, William, and three sons, Robert, Thomas and Richard Doyle.

A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m. March 19 at the Immaculata on the USD campus.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Friends of the Poor, 417 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, CA 92037; or friendsofthepoor.us.
Published by San Diego Union-Tribune on Feb. 27, 2010.
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Dr. Doyle was our pediatrition. Dr. Figuerdo's office was next door. When Dr. Doyle noticed three raised red dots on Kathee's arm he immediately took her in to his wife's office. She determined that there were 'hemangioma' tumors under the the red dots. she injected 'dry ice ice' treatments and the tumors left! God bless you and thank you Dr. Figuerdo for knowing what to do. Kathee is in her mid-60's now, with no trace of the dots returning or the tumors!
Thelma Reahm
June 12, 2017
my mother trained with your mother in new york and often spoke fondly of her. i remember as a child seeing the annual christmas card from your family. i was always amazed at the ever increasing number of children. in fact , after my mother's death i came upon the entire collection of them, that she had saved.

i was at a party some years ago where i met paul peebles. we were discussing why he became a pediatrician and he answered in great part because of this amazing pediatrician he knew growing up and his wonderful family. when he said that his wife was a surgeon and had all these children i commented he must be talking about your parents. he looked at me as though i were a witch---but how many families like yours could there be?

i just heard about your mom's death today, but i send you belated condolences. we were fortunate to have such wonderful mothers who were such talented and devoted doctors.

evy roth fogarasi, daughter of stefanie roth

[email protected]
April 23, 2010
What a joyful welcome Dr. Figueredo must have received when she arrived in heaven! Her husband, sons, mother, Mother Teresa--to say nothing of the vision of Jesus himself. Know that my prayers go out to each of you children and family members in gratitude for your mother's great faith, joy, energy and generosity.
Sister Joseph Cecile Voelker, CSC
March 11, 2010
I taught with John at St. Jude Academy for several years. I remember Dr. Figueredo and Dr. Doyle very well. Both were so kind and gracious. Know of my prayers for them and the family.
Sister Lupe Valdez, SSND
March 8, 2010
Dr. Anita was my mother's doctor for as long as I can remember. My mother, Harriet Pratt and Dr. Anita had a lot in common in their compassion for the poor. I would not have met Mother Teresa if Dr. Figueredo had not brought her to Rosary High School. She will be sorely missed. My love and prayers to all the family. Mary T. Pratt Salmon, New Braunfels, Texas
Mary Pratt-Salmon
March 2, 2010
Dr. Anita was my mother's doctor for as long as I can remember. My mother, Harriet Pratt and Dr. Anita had a lot in common in their compassion for the poor. I would not have met Mother Teresa if Dr. Figueredo had not brought her to Rosary High School. She will be sorely missed. My love and prayers to all the family. Mary T. Pratt Salmon, New Braunfels, Texas
Mary Pratt-Salmon
March 2, 2010
My mother loved this woman...what a great doctor. She was a caring and sensitive woman. Bill Pratt
Bill Pratt
March 2, 2010
Dear Family of Dr. Figueredo; Your mother was my mom's doctor years ago, and she was so kind. As a former classmate of Tica and Bill, I have fond memories of this devout, dedicated, benevolent lady. In 2009 she served as Eucharistic Minister for our 50th grade school reunion [Stella Maris Academy, LaJolla]. She was, and will continue to be an inspiration! Now a shining star from the heavens. May your loving memories continue to warm your hearts and ease your suffering. Love Bev [Klassen] and Vince Gonsowski
Bev Gonsowski
March 1, 2010
I first remember Dr. Figuerado as my classmates/friends Tica & Billy's mom, and later as my mom's physician. Even as a youngster, I knew that Dr. Figuerado stood out as a graceful woman who exuded class and strength ~ she was an example for all women of faith.
We pray that her family find healing in their sorrow, and may beautiful and fun memories soon fill your hearts.
Barb (Klassen) & Tom Swapp
February 28, 2010
On behalf of all my siblings and our mother, please accept our condolences. Anita was such a treasure to all whom she encountered.
Ellen Utschig
February 28, 2010
My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
February 28, 2010
Dear Dr. Figueredo gave my first baby her first well-baby check-up more than 65 years ago, when we were living in the Frontier Homes project. The doctor remained in my memory--her kindness, her reassurance that my baby was doing well. I followed the newspaper reports as she continued to care for others who had no money and as her life was a model for all of us.
Louise Siddall
February 27, 2010
Dr Anita has been a model of giving to me thru the years. I sent items to Mexico for years-having a visit with Bea often and when Dr Anita was not busy, she'd welcome me as well---my highlight was the day she let Betty Matteson and I hold the Relic of Mother Teresa. Thankyou to your whole family for sharing your Mother with us all. Katie Brown
Katie Brown
February 27, 2010
I had the pleasure of knowing Anita through her son Bill. I was awed by her charisma and sparkling personality from the first time I met her. I can vividly remember the biggest smile on Anita's face as she was proudly showing my daughters and I, a bronze cast of her old shoes she used to wear during the surgery that her children had made for her. I thought my feet are small, Anita's shoes must have been size 4! :) Bill showed me a picture of Anita in her swimming suit, keeping up with her grandchildren in the pool in her 90's, I was impressed.

With her charity, Friends of the Poor, she touched many lives, whose lives may simply have been forgotten. Anita is now looking down at us from up above and must be very proud of Theresa for following in her foot steps.

My thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time. Remember to look up at the sky from time to time, because I'm sure Anita will be looking back at you from up above.
Christine Chiu
February 27, 2010
This tiny woman took up very little space on Earth, but her huge spirit filled many thousands of hearts with hope and love. It was a privilege to know her. No one can take her place.
Cristina Potters
February 27, 2010
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