Shirley Ryan AbilityLab CEO Dr. Joanne Smith dies

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Joanne Smith, MD, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, has died following treatment for cancer. She was 60 years old.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and leader, Dr. Joanne Smith," board Chair M. Jude Reyes said in a Sept. 7 news release shared with Becker's. "Dr. Smith re-envisioned and reinvented the field of physical medicine. She shifted the paradigm and focus from the process of rehabilitation to the outcome of ability. For the first time, she integrated research and novel, outcomes-based metrics into patient care, resulting in better, faster recoveries."

Dr. Smith first came to the organization, formerly called the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, for her residency in 1988 and never left, the statement read. She became an attending physician in 1992 and took on a series of leadership roles before becoming the organization's president and CEO in 2006.

Dr. Smith oversaw a team of 2,000 clinicians, scientists and staff at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. The organization treats patients with complex conditions related to brain and spinal cord injuries, amputation, cancer and strokes.

"Dr. Smith was a transformational and visionary health care leader," said board member Shirley Ryan. "Her impact in the field of rehabilitation will be felt globally for many generations to come.  She blended a culture of hope and positivity, integrating scientific research, technology and superior clinical care. I was honored to be her colleague and friend."

The organization will be led by COO Peggy Kirk and Chief Administrative Officer Nancy Paridy until a replacement is found, the news release said.

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