In Memoriam: Dr. Joanne Smith

Last week, Dr Joanne Smith, CEO and visionary leader of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), passed away after a long battle with cancer. Our firm was fortunate enough to have worked with her on her inspirational AbilityLab project, which opened in March 2017 to national and international accolades.
“She envisioned the world’s first-ever “translational” research hospital in which physicians, scientists, innovators, technologists and clinicians work together in the same space, surrounding patients, discovering novel approaches and applying (or “translating”) research in real time.”
Dr Smith was a great leader and pioneered an entirely new paradigm in medicine. Those of us who were engaged in the project were under her spell, and awe-inspired by the mission of transforming the futures of so many who struggled with traumatic rehabilitation challenges. Dr. Smith re-envisioned and reinvented the field of physical medicine, shifting the focus from the process of rehabilitation to the outcome of ability. She was the first to integrate research and novel, outcomes-based metrics into patient care, resulting in better, faster recoveries.
What an honor to have been able to contribute towards such a mission. Our role was designing the patient user experience and working to weave the spirit of hope and optimism into the physical environment together with the large team of consultants on this great project. Joanne believed deeply that lifting the human spirit was a vital factor in speeding recovery.
Her legacy lives on in the incredible Institute she reshaped for the future, as well as in all who were fortunate enough to know her and work on this mission.