Anatolio B. Cruz Jr, MD, FACS

Anatolio B. Cruz Jr, MD, FACS, was born in Manila on June 20, 1933, and he died Sunday, May 21, 2023, at home with his family in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Cruz was a pioneering founding faculty member of the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. At the time of his death, the Long School of Medicine he founded was graduating its 2023 class of medical students at the school’s 53rd annual Commencement Ceremony.

Dr. Cruz grew up in the Philippines during World War II. Dr. Cruz’s father, a physician and surgeon in the Philippines, served in the United States Armed Forces in the Far East, fighting with the guerrillas against the Japanese occupation. At the age of 9, as the oldest of nine children, Dr. Cruz assumed many of his father’s responsibilities at that crucial and difficult time. Dr. Cruz’s family relates that WWII shaped a personal philosophy that guided him for the remainder of his life. It started with a commitment to always be honest, consistent and to keep things simple. He summed up his approach to every action in his life to “always do the right thing.” Dr. Cruz was effective in embedding this philosophy into the thousands of students, residents, and colleagues whom he taught and mentored. The tradition of service to the United States begun by his father in World War II was furthered by Dr. Cruz, who served as a physician in the United States Navy Reserve, deploying as a surgeon on the USNS Mercy during the first Persian Gulf War. He retired as a USN captain after 20 years of distinguished service. His oldest daughter, Raquel Cruz Bono, became the first Filipina and female surgeon to achieve the rank of vice admiral in US Navy history. Raquel’s brother, Anatolio “AB” Cruz III, also attained the rank of rear admiral, making them the first brother and sister ever to serve at Flag rank concurrently. Dr. Cruz and the Cruz family have an extraordinary track record of service to the United States.

Following the War, Dr. Cruz chose a career in medicine. He graduated from the University of the Philippines in Quezon City. While there, he met his future wife and lifelong friend, Rosalina “Rose” Sedillo Cruz. They were married April 28, 1955. Two years later, Dr. Cruz earned his MD from the College of Medicine, University of the Philippines. The Cruz family immigrated to Minneapolis where Dr. Cruz ultimately joined the fabled surgical program at the University of Minnesota, led by Dr. Owen Wangensteen. It was there that he met many of his lifelong friends and partners, eight of whom became founding surgery faculty at the Long School of Medicine.

Following residency, Dr. Cruz returned to practice in the Philippines and then Canada before coming to Texas to join the faculty of the new medical school in San Antonio. Dr. Cruz was recruited by his colleague and lifelong friend Dr. J. Bradley Aust to join the new Department of Surgery. In December of 1966, the Cruz family drove from Alberta, Canada, to San Antonio to build the Department of Surgery at the new South Texas Medical School. Dr. Cruz was a central and critically important leader in this new Department of Surgery. He continued as a faculty member from 1966 until his passing this past week—56 years. Dr. Cruz had many talents and served in many roles in Surgery and the Long School of Medicine. He was an internationally respected surgical oncologist.

During his career, Dr. Cruz made substantial contributions to the advancement of medicine and surgery. As a resident in 1963, while working with Dr. C. Walt Lillehei at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Cruz devised a free-floating heart valve, a significant advancement in the early field of open-heart surgery at the time. The valve was later modified and was patented as the Lillehei-Cruz-Kaster artificial heart valve. He was an innovative leader in breast oncology clinical trials, and was an author of numerous studies which revolutionarily improved and transformed the care of breast cancer patients. Dr. Cruz was a pioneering advocate for breast conserving surgical care, holding steadfast to this even in the face of significant peer criticism. Breast conserving treatment is now the standard practice for most breast cancer patients. Dr. Cruz was an exceptional and gifted technical surgeon who provided lifelong care to many of his patients, and he was a tireless advocate for improving breast cancer care through research and innovation. He inspired all he mentored to continually improve the care of patients with breast cancer.

Dr. Cruz was a surgical leader and a leader in our community. He served as president of the American College of Surgeons, South Texas Chapter. He was a Fellow of the Texas Surgical Society, and served as president of the San Antonio Surgical Society. Dr. Cruz served in many leadership roles in the Department of Surgery, University Hospital, and the Long School of Medicine. He was a leader in his church, Holy Spirit Catholic Church in San Antonio, and a leader in his community, serving on school boards, umpiring youth baseball, and mentoring young people at every step along the way.

When Dr. Cruz arrived in San Antonio, there were plans for a medical school, but there was no medical school. When asked by a colleague from Minnesota in 1966, “Why are you going down there? There is nothing there…,” to which Dr. Cruz responded, “that is precisely why I am going…it’s the opportunity of a lifetime…to build a new medical school.” Dr. Cruz clearly made the most of that opportunity. The South Texas Medical Center was mostly a pasture, and there were numerous challenges and obstacles to overcome. He and his colleagues patiently laid a solid foundation and then toiled and sacrificed to build excellent programs upon that foundation, programs that would transform the lives of patients here in San Antonio, and ultimately across the globe. Dr. Cruz’s legacy lives on through the thousands of medical students he taught, and the physicians and surgeons he taught, molded, and developed. Dr. Cruz trained 365 surgeons over the course of his career. He was a gifted mentor and coach to surgeons young and old. He will be sadly missed, but his work lives on in the lives of these surgeons and physicians he developed.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Cruz is survived by his children: Raquel Cruz Bono and husband Art Dwight, Anatolio “AB” Cruz III and wife Jill Lynch Cruz, and Roselle “Pinky” Cruz Osterman. He was predeceased by his son, Anthony “Tony” Cruz, who is survived his wife Honor Hulo Cruz. He also leaves eight grandchildren Corey Cruz, Caroline Cruz, Taylor Bono, Lauren Osterman, Ben Cruz, Ana Cruz, Grace Dwight, Aly Dwight; and two great-grandchildren Luka and Link Cruz.

He leaves his brothers Walter and Lincoln and his sisters Ileana, Nancy, Frances, Glory, and Virginia. He was predeceased by his brother Wally.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in the memory of Dr. Cruz to the Department of Surgery. Please see giving options below.

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Anatolio B. Cruz Jr, MD, FACS, shares his journey developing UT Health San Antonio.

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