Mystery clouds death of prominent O.C. surgeon

Friends and family were no closer to knowing what caused a prominent Orange County surgeon to be found dead in her swimming pool after an autopsy Monday proved inconclusive.

The body of Dr. Marianne E. Cinat, 45, medical director of the UC Irvine Regional Burn Center, was discovered late Saturday morning by a close friend at Cinat’s home in unincorporated Rossmoor, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Cinat, who was fully clothed, had been in the pool for more than 10 hours before the call came in at 11:15 a.m., he said.

Nothing about the case stood out as highly suspicious, and further toxicology tests will determine the cause of death. Results will take five to eight weeks while the department continues its investigation, Amormino said.

Cinat’s sister Laura said Monday that said they talked on Friday night for about an hour, and Cinat was in good spirits.


At 12:34 a.m., Laura Cinat sent a text message with a photo of her 7-year-old daughter. Cinat responded: “Adorable! Melts my heart.”

Family and friends described Cinat, a Michigan native, as meticulously devoted to her patients, many of whom had complex ailments, required prolonged hospitalization and long-term therapy. She was a staple in the UC Irvine medical community, having done her residency and fellowship at the university. She was also recognized nationally and was a member of the Orange County Burn Assn. and the American College of Surgeons.

“She was just an extraordinarily wonderful surgeon. As good as it gets, honestly,” said Dr. Michael Lekawa, the chief of the division of trauma and burns for the hospital.

Lekawa said Cinat was “not casual about her care at all.”

“She’s a big name,” he said. “This is a huge loss for us.”

Laura Cinat said her sister was a sun worshipper who loved traveling to Hawaii and was a fan of the University of Michigan football team. Cinat was interested in being a doctor from childhood and when they were young, the sisters used to pretend they were paramedics in the 1970s television show “Emergency!”

“I don’t really remember her talking about anything else,” Laura Cinat said, adding that her sister was accepted into medical school straight out of her Southfield, Mich., high school.

“She’s the kind of person you thought would be invincible,” her sister said. “I thought I would have her around for another 45 years.”