A Legacy of Loving Care

Bidding adieu to the extraordinary Dr. Raul Mena as he embarks on retirement.

  • Category
    Health, People
  • Written by
    Deb Purdy
  • Photographed by
    Tameka Jacobs

Anyone who’s met him will tell you that Raul R. Mena, MD, the medical director of the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, is special. He long ago mastered the art of deep, heart-centered listening, and his patients love him for it. That’s why they’re equally happy for him and crushed to hear of his retirement after four decades of caring for cancer patients at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

“With Dr. Mena, his humanness comes first,” says Sheri Disney, mother of former patient and cancer survivor Charlee Corra. “When you’re in the room with him, he’s completely present with you. I call him a mensch—someone to emulate—which is a high compliment I don’t use often.”

Charlee, who is celebrating 10 years cancer-free, agrees: “He’s so full of love. He always wanted to know everything about me, my interests, plans and goals. He made it feel like curing this cancer was just this project we were working on so I could get on with the rest of my life.”


A Compassionate Healer

Dr. Mena attended the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and credits its unique teaching program with introducing him to the idea of treating the whole 

person. “Before we even knew how to hold a stethoscope, they taught us to interview people, to listen and to read body language,” he shares.

It was an unusual offer at the close of his fourth year of medical school that shaped the physician he would become. Eligible to graduate five months ahead of schedule, Dr. Mena had already chosen Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for his residency. 

His plans to go to California early and learn to surf were soon canceled when one of his mentors gave him the opportunity to act as a private fellow and visit cancer patients in their homes. “He told me, ‘I want you to learn their dreams, their aspirations, their disappointments and their challenges,’” Dr. Mena remembers. “This was before the time of hospice and pain control. I couldn’t write them a prescription. My only tools were my ears and my heart. That experience more than anything else molded my character, my goals and my future.”


Leaving a Big Footprint

Dr. Mena’s career and academic accolades are many. When asked, he’ll tell you his greatest achievement has been giving patients a chance to lead the lives they want in the time they have. As he ends his 42-year career, he’s earned the love and gratitude of thousands of grateful patients and their families.

“Our kid was faced with that horrible ‘C’ word, and we had questions and fears but no good answers,” says Roy P. Disney, who with his wife, Sheri, named the Sheri and Roy P. Disney Center for Integrative Medicine at the Disney Family Cancer Center. “Dr. Mena was our guide star and our rock. Never possessive, never convinced he was right while everyone was wrong, he only wanted what was best for our child. We will always be so eternally grateful.”

According to Ora Karp Gordon, MD, the regional medical director of the clinical genetics and genomics program for Providence Southern California, Dr. Mena has been an inspiration to the multiple generations of physicians he’s mentored, and his vision for the state-of-the-art Disney Family Cancer Center has left our community with a lasting legacy.

“When Dr. Mena cared for my mother, I got to see the side of him patients and families see,” says Dr. Gordon. “I’ve never met a physician who is more compassionate and empathetic. He gives you both hope and realism at once. His patients are at peace because of the way he is with them. I know I’m not the only one who thinks of him as an angel who walks among us.”

Dr. Mena likes to reference one of Providence Saint Joseph’s statements of purpose: Know me, care for me, ease my way. “Cancer requires a team effort, and together we’ve done something worthwhile for our patients,” he says. “That’s what this is really all about.”

Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center at
Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center

501 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank  |  818-847-4673  |  supportsaintjoseph.org