About The Founders

The Mendez National Institute of Transplantation Foundation (MNITF) was founded as part of the vision of pioneering Drs. Robert and Rafael Mendez, founders of Mendez National Institute of Transplantation (MNIT). Renowned kidney transplant surgeons as well as twin brothers, the Doctors Mendez headed the kidney transplant program at St. Vincent Medical Center, which was one of the nation’s largest and most active centers for kidney transplantation. In a span of more than 35 years, the doctors and their colleagues performed over 5,000 kidney transplants at St. Vincent’s, as well as at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, and Sharp Memorial Medical Center in San Diego.

With their vast clinical experience, Drs. Robert and Rafael Mendez saw the tremendous need to advance the science and practice of organ transplantation. MNIT was created in response to this need, and its autonomy has allowed it to conduct research and education in priority areas to make a real impact in transplantation and in saving the lives of those with end-stage organ disease. Having officially merged with MNITF in spring of 2014, MNIT’s legacy and the doctors’ lifework continues on.

Robert Mendez_ARobert Mendez, MD, FACS

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Robert Mendez came to California with his family as a toddler, and attended Culver City High School before heading to Stanford University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.

Dr. Mendez received his doctor of medicine degree from the University of California at San Francisco, and over the next six years completed his internship and residencies in both internal medicine and urology at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center. He later received certification by the American Board of Urology, and the following year became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Mendez was Professor of Urology and Surgery at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, and served as President of United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), as well as president of Los Angeles Urological Society, the Southern California Transplant Society, the Los Angeles Urological Society, and the Western Association of Transplant Surgeons. He was Co-Founder, President, and Chairman of the Board of OneLegacy (previously Southern California Organ Procurement Center), and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to sit on the National Institutes of Health Committee, overseeing xenograph and stem cell research.

Dr. Mendez maintains research interests in various aspects of organ transplantation, including development of immunologic tolerance, infectious diseases in transplantation, islet cell transplantation, and innovative surgical techniques in vascular anomalies of renal allografts. He is also an author of more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and 15 book chapters.

A member of numerous international, national, and local medical societies, Dr. Robert Mendez is a widely sought-after speaker in organ transplantation, and has presented in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Mexico, Sicily, Spain, and Hawaii.

Rafael Mendez_ARafael G. Mendez, MD, FACS

Dr. Rafael Mendez was Professor of Clinical Urology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine; former Chairman of Urology at the Hospital of Good Samaritan, California Hospital Medical Center, and the Southern California Cancer Center in Los Angeles; and Co- Founder/Director of OneLegacy (formerly Southern California Organ Procurement Center).

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Mendez came to California with his family as a toddler and graduated from Culver City High School before enrolling in Stanford University and then the University of California at San Francisco, where he received both his bachelor’s and doctor of medicine degrees.

After a scholarship in surgical pathology at the Mayo Clinic and internship at Bellevue Hospital Cornell Surgical Service in New York City, Dr. Mendez completed his residency in urology at LAC+USC Medical Center. He was certified by the American Board of Urology and became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons the following year.

A member of numerous local and national medical societies, Dr. Mendez was a consultant to the California Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Medical Graduates, and the urological service of the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, Mexico.

He pursued research interests in minimally invasive laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, innovative surgical techniques in vascular anomalies of kidney homografts, cold perfusion storage in renal transplantation, monoclonal antibody use in immunosuppression in kidney transplant recipients, and modulation of immunologic responses. Dr. Rafael Mendez is the author of numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers.

A Musical Legacy

Prior to their careers as physicians, Drs. Rafael and Robert Mendez played the trumpet with their father, Rafael Mendez, a virtuoso solo trumpeter. Mendez’s trumpet playing was characterized by a brilliant tone, wide vibrato, and clean, rapid articulation. His classical repertoire was a mixture of classical, popular, Mexican folk music and jazz. Rafael Mendez contributed many arrangements and original compositions to the trumpet repertoire.

Young Twins Robert and Rafael Mendez Play the Trumpet With Their Father on the “Ed Sullivan Show”