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Serving Los Angeles Hospital is a generational affair for Mendez family.

California Hospital Medical Center Foundation

For Rafael Mendez, MD, FACS, the journey from musician to renowned transplant surgeon included a life-changing stop at California Hospital Medical Center.

As the sons of trumpet virtuoso Rafael Mendez, Dr. Mendez and his twin brother, Robert, performed alongside their father around the world, including an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. But the brothers soon discovered a new path in medicine, which combined the technical expertise and sheer joy of creating music with the ability to heal and save lives.

After earning degrees at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Mendez became a board-certified urologist and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and joined California Hospital, where he served for more than 30 years and chaired the Division of Urology. Drawn by the hospital’s commitment to caring for all in need, Dr. Mendez also joined the foundation Board of Directors, helping to raise the resources for the hospital to fulfill this mission. His wife, Sharyl, volunteered to lead fundraising events, and together they donated generously to the hospital Dr. Mendez considered his “home away from home.”

Sharyl and Rafael Mendez, MD

Dr. Mendez’s children, Nicole and Rafael, Jr. (Ralph), fondly recall weekend family outings that invariably included a visit to California Hospital, where they played out front or in the parked car while their father rounded on patients. “My dad loved being a physician, caring for his patients,” says Nicole.  

In addition to his service at California Hospital, Dr. Mendez and his brother headed one of the nation’s largest centers for kidney transplantation at nearby St. Vincent Medical Center, performing thousands of transplants over the course of more than 35 years. They created the Mendez National Institute of Transplantation Foundation to advance research, practice and education with the ultimate goal of bettering the lives of those with end-stage organ disease, and co-founded the organ procurement center OneLegacy, which today is the largest organ, eye and tissue recovery organization in the world.

Even as his work as a transplant surgeon, researcher, and professor occupied more and more of his time, Dr. Mendez’s affection for California Hospital never wavered. “Both my mom and dad developed so many lasting friendships at this hospital,” explains Nicole. “They were more than just professional colleagues – they were like family.”  

As Nicole and Ralph have assumed a growing role in their family foundation, they have sought out opportunities to impact the world in ways that honor their parents. In spring 2021, they pledged a leadership gift to California Hospital Medical Center Foundation for the hospital’s expansion and new tower construction project. “My dad felt at home here because everyone was committed to providing quality care to a community with so much need,” says Nicole. “And now, through this expansion, the hospital will be able to provide the best possible care to even more patients, for decades to come.”

In recognition of this gift, the landscaped plaza at the hospital’s main entrance – where Nicole and Ralph spent many a Saturday afternoon patiently waiting for their dad to finish his rounds – will soon be named in honor of the Mendez family.

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