Pioneering female surgeon Anita Figueredo dies at 93

Dr. Anita Figueredo, the first female surgeon in San Diego who co-founded a charity for the poor, died Feb. 19 at her La Jolla home.

The life of Figueredo, 93, was recounted last year in a book written one of her daughters, Sarita Eastman — who followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a physician.

A surgical oncologist married to a pediatrician, Figueredo had nine children and a full-time medical practice. Yet that was no deterrent when she and two friends founded Friends of the Poor. Among other projects, the group assisted the nuns at Casa de Los Pobres in Tijuana. Their mission was to collect food, clothing, medicine and money to help those in need regardless of race, gender or nationality.

“It was there to be done,” Figurerdo, told a Light reporter in 2008.

Compassion and empathy were two of the driving forces that compelled her to start the nonprofit organization, she said. She wanted to use the opportunities she had been granted to improve the lives of others.

One of the high points of Figueredo’s life was her friendship with Mother Teresa, whom she met in the ‘50s after corresponding with her.

“I wrote to her and told her that I did essentially the same kind of work, but that I did it from the comfort of my beautiful office,” Figueredo said.

When they met in person, Figueredo said she was unprepared for the experience.

“It was like being in the hands of God,” she said.

Her son-in-law, Dr. Brent Eastman, chairman of the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons and chief medical officer of Scripps Health in San Diego, called her “one of the most remarkable female surgeons of the 20th century” in a letter he submitted to the New York Times after her death.

“When asked about whether she suffered discrimination from male colleagues, Anita Figueredo always said that she supposed there may have been some but she never saw it,” he wrote. "... She was unfailingly good-natured, and her example forged a path for the generations of women who have followed her into medicine.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, Dr. William J. Doyle of La Jolla, and sons, Robert, Thomas, Richard Doyle, all of La Jolla. She is survived by three daughters: Sarita Eastman of Rancho Santa Fe, Anita Doyle of La Jolla, and Teresa Doyle of La Jolla; and three sons: William Doyle of Santa Rosa, John Doyle of San Diego and Charles Doyle of La Jolla; 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m. on March 19 at the Immaculata Church on the campus of the University of San Diego. She was a founding member of the San Diego College for women, which became USD.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made Friends of the Poor at, or sent to Friends of the Poor, 417 Coast Blvd., La Jolla 92037.