Spring 2016
Faculty Focus

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Andy Pasternak, M.D.

Giving Back: Andrew Pasternak, M.D., precepts students at his private family medicine practice. Photo by Edgar Antonio Núñez.

Community Physician Gives Back to Medical School

Story by Jordan Miszlay

Community faculty members are inspired to give back to the School of Medicine for a variety of reasons. Paying it forward. Love of teaching. Self-improvement.

Andrew Pasternak, M.D., a family medicine physician in Reno, points to these reasons and others as fueling his passion for being involved with the School of Medicine for nearly 20 years.

Pasternak, who moved to Reno in 1998, stated that School of Medicine alumna and faculty member Jennifer M. Hagen M.D.'93, sparked his interest in working with the medical school with a tour of the campus and the Reno area. After that, Pasternak and his wife knew this was where he wanted to launch his career.

He began teaching medical students right away, citing his passion for paying it forward as his main motivator.

"I had a lot of community faculty members that provided outstanding educational opportunities for me, which made me feel like I should give back and do the same," he said.

Initially working for Renown Health, Pasternak decided to open his own practice, The Silver State Center for Family Medicine, 11 years ago.

Each semester, Pasternak allows one first- or second-year medical student to come to his office on a weekly basis and learn through gathering information from patients, conducting exams and going over the patient's history and results with him.

"Working with Dr. Pasternak was a really engaging experience," said Selasi Nakhaima, Class of 2018, who precepted with Pasternak. "He let me see a lot of patients and gave me plenty of useful feedback. Working with Dr. Pasternak was the most rewarding precepting experience that I've had."

Nakhaima also went on to elaborate on Pasternak's effective style of teaching.

"He would let me see the patient on my own first, and then let me present the patient's case to the best of my ability. Then he would give me his feedback. This style of teaching was very helpful because it was in a relaxed environment that allowed me to learn," said Nakhaima.

Pasternak has mentored about 36 students in this fashion and plans on helping more.

In addition to precepting, Pasternak also participates in research projects and holds monthly fellowship development meetings.

Recently, Pasternak worked closely with medical students to publish a paper titled "Five year experience with screening ECTS in NCAA Division One Athletes," which focuses on performing screening EKGS on athletes at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Pasternak is currently working on a research project focused on identifying and collecting information about childhood obesity, with Marcia Lu, M.D., of the family medicine department in Reno.

"We are trying to get family medicine doctors to recognize and more effectively treat childhood obesity," Pasternak said.

As a fellowship development coordinator, Pasternak organizes bi-monthly meetings with fellows from the School of Medicine's sports medicine, child psychiatry and geriatrics and palliative medicine programs to discuss research opportunities and brainstorm ways to stay involved with the advancement of medicine.

In addition to leading discussions, Pasternak also lectures at these meetings and brings in guest speakers for additional learning opportunities.

Pasternak chooses to be involved with the School of Medicine to contribute to the educational advancement of medical students as well as improving his own skills.

"I like being involved with the School of Medicine because it makes me a better physician. I really enjoy private practice, but I also like having the ability to do research and expand my knowledge of medicine," he said.

"Having the ability to work with the School of Medicine is really fun, and I love to teach. The students are high quality, and they have interesting questions that force me to challenge myself."