Child Actor Plays Career Role as an Internist

Internist and addiction specialist Damon Raskin's background as a child actor helps him bring a unique perspective to his doctor-patient encounters with other child actors and celebrities.

Back in 1976, Damon Raskin, MD, played the role of Danny Thomas’ grandson on a TV series called The Practice. Oddly enough, Thomas played a physician in the series.

Today, Raskin is a board certified internist with a private practice in California’s Pacific Palisades. But the memories of his acting years — from ages 6 through 16 — are ones he says he will always cherish.

“They helped build who I am,” Raskin says. “They really taught me about people, and working with people, and understanding people. Working with adults at an early age, it gave me some maturity beyond my years at that time. And it allowed me to learn about focus and concentration in memorizing lines. All of that helped build skills that I have continued to use in the practice of medicine.”

Being in control

Raskin says that he always enjoyed acting, but wanted to be able to control his own destiny and not be at the whim of someone telling him that because his hair wasn’t a certain way he couldn’t get a role.

“I found that whole concept to be very superficial,” he recalls. “I like the acting thing, but it was just not going to be for me.”

Raskin did some soul searching, and decided to focus on becoming the first physician in his family. He was always interested in how the body works and wanted to combine that interest with his desire to help people.

“I know that sounds cliché but I really enjoy the relationships that I can develop, and that I have developed with patients,” he admits. “And I felt that if I could combine those things it would be a rewarding life — as long as I was doing it on my own terms. That’s why I am in a solo, private practice; the dinosaur that doesn’t exist anymore.”

Special interests

But that’s not all Raskin does. He’s the medical director of two nursing facilities, including Fireside Convalescent Hospital, the only five-star rated facility of its kind in Santa Monica, and serves as a medical specialist at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center, helping patients who are going through detoxification. In some ways that latter role has reconnected him to his childhood acting roots, he says.

“I treat a lot of child actors and continuing celebrities,” Raskin says. “And it is really tragic what you end up seeing could happen. They lose perspective; they lose sight of what’s going on. They don’t get a job and they start getting depressed and self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, and it’s pretty horrible.”

Raskin believes his background in acting helps him bring a unique perspective to those doctor-patient encounters.

“I have a little more understanding into that world,” he explains. “To see where they’re coming from, and to be able to relate in that way, but yet still be able to help them from a medical point of view — I think a lot of doctors don’t have that. And I feel lucky and blessed that I do have that ability.”

The male perspective

Raskin also has a special interest in men’s health issues. He says that as an internist, he is generally the first doctor that men will go to when they feel their health is off, including issues of sexuality. A change in libido, mood swings, weight gain and depression are all associated with low testosterone.

But getting men to visit the doctor is a separate challenge.

“I find that men, in general, ignore themselves a lot,” Raskin says. “They don’t go to the doctor. They’re in denial of symptoms. They may not feel well, but they say, ‘Oh, it will go away,’ until something more drastic happens. And so I think that awareness factor for me, of trying to get more men into my office and deal with things like depression or low testosterone and work on that as an issue, and not see it as a stigma that they’re coming to the doctor, I think that’s quite rewarding.”

The memories linger

When Raskin thinks back on his acting career, he says the memories he holds most dear are people he had a chance to work with. In addition to his year working with Thomas, Raskin appeared in other TV series, including Eight is Enough, B.J. and the Bear and One Day at a Time. He also recalls spending a day with Henry Fonda doing a commercial for the GAF Talking View-Master that he says “was memorable,” as well as doing a Hi-C fruit punch commercial with Bill Cosby.

And since there are times when he misses that aspect of his career, he channels that “acting bug” into sharing his knowledge and experience with a broader audience.

“I didn’t hire a public relations company because I need more patients,” he explains. “I wanted to be able to use the skills I have, whether that’s in articles online, or being asked by Entertainment Tonight to comment on celebrity addicts. I’m using my skills as a doctor to promote myself as a speaker and communicator.”

Precious time

Raskin says he has little time to take on a full-fledged hobby and instead likes to spend the spare time he has with his wife and two children. He enjoys traveling, and the family takes frequent trips for quality time when he doesn’t have to focus on anything else. He also frequents the gym regularly as “a healthy way to unwind,” and enjoys hiking with his two dogs.

But in the end it comes back to his patients.

“The most rewarding things really are when I help a patient through the problem, and they feel gratified,” Raskin says. “They come back and they say it was because of you that I got through this, whatever it is. And it’s that feeling that they can trust me, and the relationship then progresses through the years. That’s what I really cherish about my job.”