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Profile: Evelyn Figueroa's a 'mama bear' and family physician

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Evelyn Figueroa

Evelyn Figueroa, assistant professor and family practice physician, has delivered more than 600 babies. She also runs ultrasound workshops, sees patients and mentors 18 medical residents. “I do about every type of procedure,” she says. “It’s really fun.”

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin


Knowing that Evelyn Figueroa has delivered more than 600 babies, you might think that’s all she does.

But Figueroa, an assistant professor and family practice physician, also mentors medical residents, helps develop curriculum, sees patients and runs ultrasound workshops.

As associate program director, she supervises residents in clinics, including baby deliveries for the 20 percent who do obstetrics.

Currently she mentors 18 residents.

“I’m the mama bear,” she said.

Figueroa sees patients in a clinic she describes as “very integrated.”

“In one day I may see a baby that I delivered, do a colposcopy [biopsy of the cervix], check someone’s diabetes and take out an ingrown toenail,” she said.

“I do about every type of procedure. It’s really fun, and it’s nice for the residents to see a lot of specialty care.

“Ninety percent of the time we can do it without ordering any tests or sending [patients] to someone else. If it’s acne, they don’t have to go to dermatology. If it’s arthritis, they don’t have to go to orthopedics for an injection — we can do that.”

Figueroa puts in three half-days seeing patients and spends the rest of the time teaching or doing administrative tasks.

About every week or two she delivers a baby.

“I delivered 50 two years ago,” she said. “My family yelled at me, I was gone all the time. Sometimes at 1 in the morning. But it’s a very exciting part of my job.”

Figueroa developed an online course in obstetrics for faculty physicians. She also conducts workshops to help her colleagues learn ultrasound, useful not only for checking the progress of babies in the womb but to diagnose irregular bleeding from IUDs or early in pregnancy.

“It’s one of the few ultrasound programs in the country for family practice,” she said, adding that only Northern California and Milwaukee have anything comparable.

“I’ve had people come from Oregon to take my course,” she said. “Other places have a machine but only one faculty member uses it.”

In diabetes care, she does everything from managing insulin to counseling on diet to screening for other problems that come with diabetes — eye, nerve and heart conditions.

Born and raised on the North Side, Figueroa studied biology at Northeastern Illinois University and earned her medical degree in 1999 at UIC.

She did her residency at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where she was named “Teacher of the Year.”

“I knew I wanted to do women and children’s health,” she said.

“Many family residencies don’t have an extensive gynecology curriculum — it was problematic in my residency to do more than pap smears. So I ended up on a rotation away,” at a community hospital in Oakland, Calif.

After her residency, she joined the hospital’s OB/GYN staff. "I was the only full-time family practice doctor,” Figueroa said.

She learned how to do ultrasounds, colcoscopies and advanced family planning, including placement of IUDs and intensive aspirations for miscarriages and abortions.

She directed a women’s urgent care center — taking care of bleeding and STD testing during pregnancy — “stuff that can’t wait for a routine visit.”

She missed being with other family practice doctors, “though it was helpful to get all that training,” she said. “To see kids in the peds clinic, visit the diabetes clinic — it was all very fragmented.”

Now back in Chicago, Figueroa lives in Logan Square with her sons, Charlie, 5, and Joaquin, 1. She joined the College of Medicine in 2005.

She used to garden and knit, but those pastimes were “derailed” by the baby.

Her father and stepfather are “Mr. Fix-Its,” she said, and she has hung her own kitchen cabinets and refinished countertops.

“Last week I changed a light fixture, and if a pipe is leaking I can fix it,” Figueroa said. “I’m a family practice doctor, we’re supposed to know a little about everything, right?”

gwisby@uic.edu


More profiles:

George Honig mixes passion for medicine, fiction writing

Patricia Harkin brings new life to 1892 'painted lady'

J. Malcolm Smith leads by example


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