Friday, May 17, 2024

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was renamed The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

A Chicago institution's most recent name change is the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, previously known as the "Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago." The name change occurred in 2017, and the lab was renamed to recognize Shirley Ryan's philanthropic contributions to the organization.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), 345 East Superior Street, Chicago, was founded in 1954 and has a rich history as a pioneer and global leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation. It quickly gained recognition for its innovative approach to patient care, focusing on restoring function and maximizing independence for individuals with complex conditions such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, and amputation.

RIC's interdisciplinary team of experts developed groundbreaking therapies and rehabilitation programs, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the field. The institute's commitment to research and education further solidified its reputation as a center of excellence, attracting top talent and fostering collaboration among doctors, clinicians, scientists, and engineers.

In 2016, Shirley Ryan and her husband, Patrick G. Ryan, made a record donation to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The donation amount was not disclosed, but it was the largest in the organization's 63-year history. Rumors suggest it was over $1.5 million.

In 2017, RIC underwent a transformative change in its name and facilities. The newly christened "Shirley Ryan AbilityLab," a state-of-the-art, 1.2-million-square-foot facility, opened its doors, representing a new era in rehabilitation medicine. The name change honored the remarkable contributions of Shirley Ryan, a tireless advocate for people with disabilities and a driving force behind the institute's growth and success.

Shirley Ryan's connection to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago began with a personal tragedy. In 1961, her then 13-year-old son, Patrick Ryan, sustained a severe brain injury during a swimming accident. This life-changing event led Shirley Ryan to seek the best possible care and rehabilitation for her son, ultimately bringing her to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Inspired by Patrick's transformative care at RIC, Shirley Ryan became a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities and their families. She recognized the critical need for comprehensive rehabilitation services and cutting-edge research to improve outcomes for those with complex conditions.

In the following years, Shirley Ryan became deeply involved in RIC, dedicating her time, energy, and resources to advancing its mission. She served on the RIC Foundation Board of Directors for over 35 years, including 14 years as its chair. During her tenure, she spearheaded numerous fundraising campaigns, securing millions of dollars to support research, education, and patient care programs.

Shirley Ryan'Ryan'son extended beyond financial support. She played a pivotal role in shaping RIC's strategic direction, advocating for innovative approaches to rehabilitation and pushing for the development of new therapies and technologies. Her unwavering commitment to excellence and deep understanding of patients' families helped establish RIC as a global physical medicine and rehabilitation leader.

This life-changing event fueled her passion for improving the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. She became a tireless fundraiser, advocate, and visionary leader, pivotal in securing the resources and support needed to build the world-class facility that now bears her name.

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab represents a culmination of RIC's legacy and Shirley Ryan's unwavering commitment to advancing the field of rehabilitation. The facility's design integrates research, education, and patient care, reflecting a new model for delivering comprehensive and personalized rehabilitation services.
The Patrick and Shirley Ryan Family made Northwestern University's largest single gift, $480 million, in 2021. The gift will accelerate biomedical, economic, and business research breakthroughs, enabling the University to redevelop Ryan Field and construct a best-in-class venue for the Northwestern community.

Beyond its cutting-edge facilities, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab upholds RIC's tradition of excellence in research and education. The institute's scientists and clinicians are at the forefront of developing new therapies and technologies to improve outcomes for patients with complex conditions. Through its educational programs, the AbilityLab trains the next generation of rehabilitation professionals, ensuring that the field continues to evolve and innovate.

Extensive landscaping and green space at the street level and throughout the upper spaces afford access to gardens. A green roof system tops the building. These features promote a healing environment and provide practical benefits, such as the absorption of heat on the roof and the diversion of rainwater from entering the city sewers.

With an average stay of 24 days, inpatient rooms were designed to provide visual access to restrooms, places for personal keepsakes, and sweeping views of the city oriented to encourage movement and progress. What a beautiful single room.

Water therapy has a specially equipped swimming pool and waterproof wheelchairs and equipment.

Each of the five ability labs — 1) "Think + Speak," 2) "Legs + Walking Lab," 3) "Arms + Hands Lab," 4) "Strength" Endurance Lab," and "5) "Pediatric Lab" — provide for both active and visible "front" stage" patient work with clinicians and researchers, as well as private, heads-down "backstage" space for analysis and planning.

An innovative "Wet Lab" allows researchers to study diseases, conditions, and injuries that can only be solved at the cellular level. Scientists can increase the number and speed of discoveries because they are co-located with clinical teams and patients.

In summary, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, now the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, has a storied history of innovation, leadership, and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. The institute honors Shirley Ryan's conRyan'sions, whose tireless advocacy, visionary leadership, and management abilities have shaped its trajectory. The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and unwavering dedication to a noble cause.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article. The RIC was there for my mother after a pretty major stroke and our family was thankful she could be treated there as it was already renown in the U.S. She was a brilliant mind before the stroke and had a fulfilling 11 years after the stroke. I have since taken a peek into the new Shirley Ryan Ability Lab and it is really state of the art. Both Chicago and the patients served are very lucky to have this facility.


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