Gary Pasternak, MD, MPH

January 2009

Dr. Gary Pasternak’s commitment to hospice care goes far beyond his job as associate medical director at Mission Hospice. He has provided pain control (palliative) care in locations as remote as rural India and the nomadic regions of Tibet on medical missions sponsored by religious organizations.

Later this year, he’ll be doing a fellowship at the Center for Palliative Studies at the San Diego Hospice, which tends to almost 1,000 patients a year and leads efforts to enhance palliative care internationally. Working at the San Diego hospice will allow him to provide hospice care both to in-home patients – the model at Mission Hospice – and in an inpatient hospice care center.

Pasternak remembers his first encounters with Mission Hospice as love at first sight. “It has been a privilege to work with the Mission team,” he said. “Everyone provides the most competent and compassionate care imaginable. Our patients and families are so well-served by our dedicated team.”

He became interested in pain control and end-of-life care a dozen years ago when he had patients with HIV who wanted to be cared for at home.

“At that time, there was no formal training in palliative care so we started teaching ourselves,” he recalled. Now, palliative-care education is required for all California physicians and a number of hospitals have palliative-care departments.

Pasternak, who is board-certified in internal medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, and occupational and environmental health with added qualifications in geriatrics, also is deeply interested in the non-medical aspects of hospice.

In 2007, he was ordained at the Chaplaincy Institute for Arts and Interfaith Ministries in Berkeley, where he based his ordination sermon on the meaning of Mission Hospice’s annual “Light Up a Life” event.