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THE MENDEZ NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TRANSPLANTATION FOUNDATION (MNITF) was founded as part of the vision of pioneering physicians Drs. Robert and Rafael Mendez, founders of the Mendez National Institute of Transplantation (MNIT). The renowned kidney transplant surgeons and twin brothers 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. Over the course of more than 35 years, the Drs. Mendez and their colleagues performed 6,000+ kidney transplants at St. Vincent’s, the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, and Sharp Memorial Medical Center in San Diego.

Rafael Mendez, MD                                                        

Given their vast clinical experience, Drs. Robert and Rafael Mendez saw a tremendous need to advance the science and practice of organ transplantation. MNIT was created in response to this need, and its autonomy provided the opportunity to conduct research and education in priority areas to significantly impact transplantation and save the lives of those with end-stage organ disease. MNIT’s research interests included the development of immunologic tolerance; infectious diseases in transplantation; islet cell transplantation; innovative surgical techniques in vascular anomalies of renal allografts; and cold perfusion storage. 


In addition to research, the Drs. Mendez created the MNIT Transplant Fellow Program and trained more than 30 physicians throughout the U.S. and other countries in the evolving science of transplantation. Because they valued the importance of training young physicians worldwide, transplant programs were able to be built and grown in Spain, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, and Brazil.  


In the 1970s, the Drs. Mendez also co-founded the organ procurement center OneLegacy (formerly the Southern California Organ Procurement Center). In the spring of 2014, MNIT officially merged with MNITF, allowing MNIT’s legacy and the retired doctors’ lifework to continue.



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

Robert Mendez, MD                                                        
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