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Dec 17, 2014 9:35 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Richard Panebianco Retiring After Nearly 40 Years As A Doctor In Southampton

Dec 22, 2014 10:58 AM

Dr. Richard Panebianco knew from a young age that he would grow up to become a doctor. Having a father in that profession, he was familiar with the lifestyle—long hours and lots of challenges, but also the satisfying feeling of saving lives and helping people stay healthy.Now, after nearly 40 years as a medical provider in Southampton, Dr. Panebianco is closing the door on his career via retirement. Friday will be his last day at his office in the Meeting House Lane Medical Practice; he will continue seeing some housebound patients up until December 31, when he is, ironically, on call for the night.

“I didn’t think this day would come so soon,” Dr. Panebianco said at his office Tuesday morning. “It’s certainly a frightening feeling in some ways, but a very liberating feeling also. I’m really looking forward to this.”

Dr. Panebianco completed his undergraduate work at Yale University and studied medicine at New York Medical College. He’s a native of Malba, Queens, and his family used to spend summers on the South Fork, prompting a young Dr. Panebianco to eventually live and work in Southampton.

His career has been a whirlwind of memories, he said. While it started out rough—he would sometimes be the only doctor responding to a crisis at 3 in the morning, because there weren’t many sub-specialists in the region just yet—it eventually evened out and turned into days filled with lots of appointments and patients he deeply cared for, and about.

One of the proudest moments of his 40-year run, he said, was traveling to the Marshall Islands for a month in 1985 with Brookhaven National Laboratory to study the effects that radiation from a hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1954 had on the islanders.

Having been married to Dr. Panebianco throughout his whole career, Chris Thompson, his wife, described her husband as a very well-known, very old-fashioned doctor who makes house calls for those who weren’t healthy enough to make a trip to the office, and works very long hours.

“I think he’s really enjoyed it. I think he’s extremely fond of many of the people who have been his patients for a long time,” Ms. Thompson said. “For me, I know what it’s like to live with someone who’s incredibly busy. It’s a little bit like being married to a celebrity.”

Dr. Panebianco is well-respected among his peers and known for his love of windsurfing, fishing and all things relating to the water. Many have said they look to the doctor not only as someone they admire in the medical field but also as a friend.

“It’s been one of the highlights of my everyday to come in and work with him,” said Dr. Charles Guida, a physician who has worked in the same office as Dr. Panebianco for 18 years. “He epitomizes what an old-fashioned, good doctor would be. He’s a role model for myself and all the new, young trainees coming up.

“Every day, I’m telling him he can’t retire,” he continued. “He’s going to be sorely missed by not only his patients but everyone in the office. Of course, we wish him all the best.”

“If you had to take the one doctor in my whole 28 and a half years who exemplifies the role model of what a primary care doctor should be, there’s no number two or number three,” said Dr. Howard Sklarek, a pulmonary and critical care doctor who has known Dr. Panebianco for years, but only started working in the same building about six months ago. “He’s also such a good role model for physicians in balancing a very, very busy practice. He’s extremely respected. It’s going to be a tremendous loss to the patients, community, the other doctors and, personally, myself.”

And his assistant Diane Glanz, who has worked with Dr. Panebianco for more than a decade, said it will be hard for her to imagine not working with her teammate anymore. "It's been a real privilege to have worked with this guy," she said, holding back tears. "He taught me more than what I needed to know."

Once he retires, Dr. Panebianco plans to travel with his wife. With a son, Jace, who lives in Hawaii and a daughter, Nova, who lives in Philadelphia, the doctor said he is happy to finally have the time to visit them regularly.

But leaving behind his passion, medicine, is something he said is not easy to do.

“The day-to-day stuff in medicine is really exciting. It’s never boring. Every day has one surprise after another,” he said. “One of the really tough things about medicine is that it’s never finished.”

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As a youngster growing up in Southampton Shores during the summers, Richard was a friend. As time moves on, Richard took care of my parents with their medical conditions....extreme tenderness & professionalism. I know my father trusted him totally as he told me many times.
I'm 66 years old, live in Florida now & suffer from a disease called alcoholism. Richard treated me more then once with a full understanding of what I suffer from to this day.
I'm going to wish Richard & Chris a well deserved ...more
By drteedancer (10), East Hampton on Dec 18, 14 9:27 AM
2 members liked this comment
He was my father's doctor. Great doctor and great man. Enjoy retirement, you earned it!
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Dec 22, 14 4:35 PM