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Dr. Ergi John Pesiri dies at 88; was LI radiology group co-founder

Dr. Ergi John Pesiri co-founded the Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology

Dr. Ergi John Pesiri co-founded the Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology Group of Long Island. Credit: Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology Group

Dr. Ergi John Pesiri, who co-founded Long Island’s well-known Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology Group in 1958, died at his longtime Melville home on Nov. 19 of heart and kidney failure. He was 88.

Partnering with Dr. Jerome Zwanger, the radiological practice they started in Massapequa became the largest diagnostic testing group in New York and among the largest in the nation, according to Pesiri’s daughter Ann Swanson of Annapolis, Maryland.

Pesiri and Zwanger made the decision early on to report the results of their tests within 24 hours, which “changed the whole concept of when you should get an answer,” Swanson said. “That deeply changed how medicine rolled not only in New York but across the country.”

Zwanger, 93, said yesterday, “It was our mantra to give the best service we can to patients and give the reports to the doctors as soon as possible. We called in reports almost immediately.”

Pesiri was born in Brooklyn in 1928 and raised in Middle Village, Queens. His father was a stone cutter and his mother worked in the garment industry.

Swanson said Pesiri’s intelligence was recognized early. He skipped four grades from elementary school through college, graduating from St. John’s University at 18 and from Marquette University Medical School in Wisconsin at 22.

“He was a very young doctor,” his daughter said. “His patients would be alarmed. He had a baby face. He looked like Al Pacino when he was young.”

After medical school, Pesiri served in the U.S. Coast Guard as a medical officer at the end of the Korean War and then was appointed chief medical officer at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in Washington, his daughter said.

He accepted a residency in radiology at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital on Staten Island. He also won a fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, his daughter said.

Pesiri focused on radiology because “he was always a problem solver,” his daughter said. “They were pushing him toward pathology. But radiology is sort of the engineering of the medical world. It’s diagnostic, it’s problem solving . . . He could understand the whole body.”

Zwanger, who had started a radiology practice on Long Island in 1953, said he met Pesiri through a mutual friend in 1958. He proposed a partnership and Pesiri accepted. “He was a highly intelligent man with a social conscience. We got along without an argument all those years. It was a very happy thing,” Zwanger said.

Pesiri had met his wife, Nancy Evelyn Long, at Marquette, where she was a nursing student. They married in 1953. With the new partnership, his family moved to Long Island — first to Old Bethpage and then to Melville in 1965.

Pesiri retired in 2001; Zwanger retired in 2008, leaving the practice in the hands of Zwanger’s daughter and son-in-law, both radiologists.

Pesiri is survived by his wife, of Melville, daughters Evelyn Pesiri of Atlanta and Swanson, three grandchildren and his sister, Carol Harrigan of East Northport.

The wake was at Wagner Funeral Home in Plainview on Nov. 22. The funeral Mass was the next day at St. Pius X church in Plainview followed by burial in the family plot at St. John Cemetery in Queens.

The family asks that contributions be made to the Marquette University Nancy Long Pesiri Scholarship Fund, c/o University Advancement, PO Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881 or the charity of your choice.

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