Add sousaphone player and marching band founder to the resume of this Reno doctor and philanthropist who has been helping people and organizations feel better and accomplish for more than 20 years.
Dr. Andy Pasternak runs a busy medical practice and sports performance lab — Silver Sage Center for Family Medicine and Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab — competes in endurance running races and cross-country ski events, travels for work and play, and in between does a lot for community organizations.
Pasternak and his wife JoAnn Ellero, a Reno anesthesiologist, moved to Reno in 1998 after they completed medical school at the University of Michigan and residency at the University of Wisconsin. The two have found a niche in supporting community groups that share their passion for the outdoors and endurance sports.
For the past nine years, Pasternak has served as volunteer medical director of the Tahoe Rim Endurance Trail Races (TRETR). The job entails loading up medical supplies and heading into the mountains for a 36-hour, sleep-deprived stint tending to runners tackling a 50- or 100-mile trail run. Ellero joins him and they mostly tend to blisters and exertion-related illness, patching folks up so that they can finish or advising when it’s time to call it a day. The exhausting dusty work is “a blast,” according to Pasternak.
Pasternak’s Facebook page is full of appreciation for their work.
- “Andy, having you and JoAnn up there each year not only ensures that TRETR has the best medical professionals available, but also the best people. Thank you both for being such giving and loving folks.”– John Trent
- “Thanks for all you and your wife do! – Kristin Niederhaus Henry
- “Thank you to all the Tunnel creek crew for your amazing assistance! You are all truly badasses!” – Annette Schulz
The couple also volunteers at a medical aid station for the Western States 100, another area endurance run. And he gives at the office. A lot.
Silver Sage Center for Family Medicine is a member of 1% For the Planet. Created by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, members commit to giving 1% of annual sales (not profit) to groups that support the environment. Silver Sage’s causes include Biggest Little Trail Stewardship (Reno trail building and advocacy group), Reno Bike Project (committed to building a cycling-friendly community through education, cooperation and advocacy), Truckee Trails (trail building and advocacy) and Center for Biological Diversity (protection of endangered species).
1% For the Planet makes sense to Pasternak on both a professional and personal level. “We’re trying to take care of people,” he explains. “But it’s hard to stay healthy in a toxic environment. Supporting local groups helps.”
In addition to the environment, Pasternak is passionate about kids being active and getting outdoors. He especially appreciates the ethos of endurance sports. “The focus is not so much on winning or losing, like it is in many schools sports,” he says. “Endurance sports emphasize the value of accomplishment to kids. They are lifelong, lifestyle sports.” He is also a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Nevada Reno, School of Medicine where he also mentors medical students and their research projects.
As school started up again this fall, Pasternak took several hours out of his busy workday to meet with students at Coral Academy. The 24 high schoolers are part of the school’s sports medicine program. They met with Andy at his sports performance lab where he offered some hands-on training in exercise physiology, putting several kids through a VO2 max test.
"It was a great experience, one that you'd probably only get if you were going to be a professional athlete,” said Coral Academy student and track athlete Shawna Hix. “And I really enjoyed it, no matter how tiring it was."
Through his office, Pasternak supports the Reno Wheelmen cycling club; the Reno Devo youth cycling development team; Far West Nordic youth development team; Bike Like a Girl and Girls on the Run, two groups working to empower girls and women through sport.
"Andy has given generously to our club since 2007, 13 years as our title sponsor,” says Jenny Frayer, treasurer of the Reno Wheelmen cycling club. “With his support, we’ve been able to provide opportunities for cyclists at all levels to compete in a variety of disciplines. We have a particular focus on encouraging youth and women to participate in the sport and Andy’s support has meant these groups can participate at little or no cost. We have also been able to provide cycling scholarships to young riders and build a development racing program that serves the entire Northern Nevada and northwestern California cycling communities.”
Plenty of Pasternak’s time is also spent in service to professional organizations, including as past president of the Washoe County Medical Society, secretary of the Nevada State Medical Association, advocate for Immunize Nevada, six-year board member of Access to Healthcare and community clinician representative for North American Primary Care Research Group.
Now back to the marching band.
A drum major in high school, Pasternak never lost his appreciation for that energetic mobile music. So he decided his Truckee community (he and his wife own a home there) needed a marching band “for the benefit of all Truckee.” A few dozen Truckee folks of varying ages and abilities now form the Lansford Hastings Wrong Way Marching Band (Hastings was the infamously poor navigator of the Donner party). Pasternak is the band’s sousaphone player (he also plays the tuba). His wife carries the banner. This past summer, in their inaugural year, the band marched in Truckee’s 4th of July parade, bringing joy to upwards of dozens of fans.