Dr. Rafael Canton became enthusiastic about treating patients near their homes.
by Mohammed Hasan
The Ventura physician, Rafael Canton, MD, practices Psychiatry. He goes to work three days a week. He turns 100 in a few days.
His life history is of innovation, dedication and giving.
In the early sixties, in the United States, most psychiatric care took place in large, often remote, state hospitals. Patients stayed there for months or for the rest of their life. In cities there was a strong stigma of anyone with mental illness. Then, the National Institute of Mental Health was funded to promote a new approach- community psychiatry.
Dr. Rafael Canton, a 1947 graduate of Tulane Medical school, New Orleans. who had done psychiatric residence in a large hospital, became enthusiastic about treating patients near their homes, involving their family members, connecting with community resources, so as to provide early, more effective treatment and to promote recovery and rehabilitation. He was hired as Director of the new Ventura County Mental Health Department. It was a pioneering challenge. Some of the achievements were:
• The construction of a building for the new Psychiatric Unit at the Ventura County Hospital and creating an active link. Dr. Canton had to be the psychiatrist for the Unit, as there was no other option
• A new building for the first Partial Hospitalization-Day Treatment Program in the County. Again, Dr. Canton was the psychiatrist for the Unit.
• The creation of the first Outpatient Psychiatric Clinics in Oxnard and Simi Velley.
• The creation of the first Methadone Maintenance Clinic in Ventura and Oxnard.
• The creation of the Psychiatric Emergency Team.
Due to the severe shortage of bilingual doctors in his field, he filled in wherever he needed to serve in this county.
Due to Dr. Canton’s dedication in the mental health medicine, things have steadily and subtly changed in this county, the stigma is gone. One can openly talk and get assistance for themselves or their family members which was not possible before. He almost single-handedly changed the perception, patient care and hope for mental health in Ventura County. His contribution to the community by serving others is exemplary and an inspiration to younger generation.
Since 1973, Dr. Canton has been in private practice. He finds special joy in being able to establish therapeutic rapport with patients and their closest relatives. In 2009, he published his book, “Mental Hygiene as a Second Language”, to help readers to choose their thoughts in a healthier way, available online.
Dr. Canton continues his practice and serves the community at the age of 100. The gentleman keeps giving!
When asked how he has made such a milestone, he credits his genes (his Dad died at the age of 94); never overeating (rather eating less, no smoking, and “alcohol never appealed to me”); how he selects his thoughts (healthy way – avoiding criticism of people and express approval generously, realizing we are all imperfect); live an active life (gardening, working, keeping busy, Sunday church, family and friends).
He is celebrating his 100th birthday with his friends and family, and at a church event Wednesday evening (United Universalist Church of Ventura), and also at a luncheon on Thursday at his old Rotary club (Ventura East).