Steve Pangere, president and CEO of Gary-based construction firm Pangere Corp., and his wife Georgiann, a jazz musician who's performed across the country, were honored recently by The Chicago Lighthouse for their philanthropic work on behalf of the blind, visually impaired and disabled.
The couple received the Beacon of Light award for establishing and supporting The Pangere Center for Inherited Retinal Diseases, which does clinical research, specialized testing and diagnosing of inherited retinal diseases.
"Given the amount of respect and admiration Georgiann and I have for what The Chicago Lighthouse represents, we felt honored to receive this prestigious Beacon of Light award," said Steve Pangere, who was born with cone-rod dystrophy, a condition that causes progressive vision loss over time. "It was also gratifying to know that our efforts to establish The Pangere Center for Inherited Retinal Diseases was recognized."
Steve Pangere has long been a patient of Dr. Gerald Fishman, who's widely considered to be "a world-renowned ophthalmologist, researcher and academic in inherited retinal diseases." When the doctor joined The Chicago Lighthouse, the Pangeres decided to support his research by establishing The Pangere Center.
Pangere said The Pangere Center has three goals.
"The first is patient care. Patients are seen throughout the United States and abroad, including South Africa, Italy and Iraq. The second goal is that of education. The Pangere Center provides the opportunity to train residents and fellows in various aspects of inherited retinal diseases who come from various academic institutions throughout the Midwest.
"The third goal is that of research. The Pangere Center participates in treatment trials for certain diseases that cause night blindness, such as retinitis pigmentosa, and currently, the center is involved in the treatment trial of patients who are blind from congenital color blindness."
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Fishman, the director of The Pangere Center, has diagnosed thousands of rare eye diseases, done research into early onset macular degeneration and been involved in FDA-approved clinical trials for gene therapy treatments.
"The center is a place for hope, education, diagnosis and research. Within the last 10 years, over 60 research papers have been published," Georgiann Pangere said. "Patients from all over the world have come to the center for Dr. Fishman’s diagnosis and medical students have come from all over the world to learn from Dr. Fishman."
The Pangeres appreciate the opportunity to support Fishman's work.
"I’d say we are amazingly proud," Georgiann Pangere said. "I, at one time, thought I wanted to go into medicine, but now, I believe it was my destiny not to become a doctor, but support one of the world’s greatest doctors in his field. The work at the center has benefited doctors and the visually impaired by the thousands and I can’t think of a better honor than being part of this."
The Chicago Lighthouse honored the Pangeres for their philanthropy at the recent Seeing What’s Possible Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel on Chicago's north side, a soiree that was emceed by WBBM news radio anchor Felicia Middlebrooks.
"It was a surprise — a wonderful, meaningful, unforgettable surprise," Georgiann Pangere said of the award. "While our honor is in working and supporting the premier Chicago Lighthouse, the Beacon of Light award gave us an opportunity to draw attention to giving. No matter what physical challenges one has or no matter where one comes from, everyone can make a difference in our community."