Dr. Juan Rafael Santoni Mendoza (1935-2020)

By Prof. Anna Robles and Prof. Marco T. Medina

Dr. Juan Rafael Santoni Mendoza

Undeniably a father of Dominican neurology,  Dr. Juan Rafael Santoni Mendoza was honest, teacher by vocation, tirelessly hardworking, researcher. He was devoted to his followers, but first of all to his patients. He gave us everything we expected from a great teacher and a great man.

Prof. Santoni Mendoza, affectionately known as “Fao,” passed away Sept. 29, 2020, after a short but aggressive systemic gastrointestinal pathology. Until then, he had been active fulfilling his professional activities as well as his academic and family responsibilities.

He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on March 7, 1935. He went on to marry  Monica Howard Williams de Santoni and was a father to four children: Marcos, Maria Luisa, Alexius Eduardo, and Carlos Juan. He was a neurologist and former president of the SDNN (Dominican Society of Neurology and Neurophysiology).

Dr. Santoni studied Medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid in Spain, nowadays known as “La Complutense de Madrid,” received a degree in medicine and surgery in 1959. He studied under the distinguished and illustrious Prof. José Casas, Cátedra de Patología General de la Facultad de Medicina de Madrid in 1953.

His primary school education was at Colegio Santo Tomás in Santo Domingo and was followed by the two first years of high school at Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, where his undisputed leadership led him to be elected class president. He returned to the Dominican Republic so as to finish high school at the Escuela Normal de Varones of Santo Domingo.

In 1959-1961, he did his internal medicine training internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital Dublin, Ireland. He chose to specialize in neurology and neurophysiology at the Institute of Neurology, Queen Square London (1961-1963), received his degree in clinical neurology and electroencephalography with Prof. William Cobb (who frequently invited H. Gastaut from Marseille). He attended as invited neurologist and neurophysiologist (1963-1965) at the Fundación Jiménez Díaz and Gran Hospital de la Beneficencia in Madrid, neurosurgeon Professor Sixto Obrador Alcalde.

Dr. Santoni performed an intense pedagogical work: professor of neuroanatomy and neurology at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) until 1986; professor of neurology for the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), for more than three decades until 2008.

He belongs to the group of neurologists who founded and integrated our society in 1968, a distinguished member for over 50 years. He was a pioneer of neurophysiology and epileptology formation for our country. He was a founding member of the Sociedad Dominicana de Cefaleas (SODOC) in 1999.

Dr. Santoni worked as a neurologist at different hospitals in Santo Domingo: Hospital Moscoso Puello, head of the neurological department (1966-1976); Instituto Nacional de la Diabetes (INDEN), consulting neurologist (1979-1996); Hospital Robert Reid Cabral for Children, honorary assesor and consultant neurologist since 1970; Centro de Rehabilitación foundation 55 years (1965), appointed in 1974 head of the EEG department.

He published approximately 120 papers covering the most diverse range of topics on epilepsy and neurophysiology. He wrote dozens of scientific articles and chapters for neurology books with his elder son

Dr. Carlos Santoni Williams as collaborator.

Prof. Santoni has been member of prestigious academies and neurological societies, national as well as international, was a national delegate to the World Federation of Neurology representing our country with dignity for many years; and was life founding member of the Dominican Society of EEG and Clinical Neurophysiology.

He was founding member (1968) of the Dominican Yachting Federation and president from 1972 to 1977. He was a tango dancer and student of Prof. Doña Milkeya Melo.

Prof. Juan Santoni represents six decades of exquisite world-class neurological practice. He was diligent, exacting, and persistent; born with the researcher’s inquisitive curiosity. He released  scientific papers at exemplary rhythm. And on he goes, remaining light, fresh, efficient. As if the passing by of years renewed his energies, to carry on the walk along his brilliant road of life.

It was a privilege to consult him and imitate his example. Fao Santoni was a human miracle made neurologist, and today, with honors, we say good-bye.

Undoubtedly with the absence of Dr. Santoni, the Dominican Republic and Latin America have lost a great man and professor of neurology, but the world of neurosciences has also been affected.

Prof. Ana Robles, FAAN, is former WFN regional director of Latin America. Prof. Marco T. Medina, FAAN, FEAN, Chevalier is WFN regional director for Latin America and PAFNS president.