Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
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- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Patient Populations
- 4 Research Scope and Diversity
- 5 Recognition and Awards
- 6 Education and Partnerships
- 7 Academics and PM&R Residency Program
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), is the leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation for adults and children with the most severe, complex conditions — from traumatic brain and spinal cord injury to stroke, amputation and cancer-related impairment. Its care and research have made it the “No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991. Applied research focuses particularly in the areas of neuroscience, bionic medicine, musculoskeletal medicine and technology transfer.
Upon opening in March 2017, the $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan AbilityLab became the first-ever “translational” research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or “translating”) research real time.
The Birth of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R)
Rehabilitation is a relatively new medical specialty, becoming certified as such in 1947. Immediately following World War II, which had a significant impact on the specialty of rehabilitation, President Truman appointed five-star General Omar Bradley to head the Veterans Administration (VA). General Bradley recruited Dr. Paul Magnuson, a U.S. Army orthopaedic surgeon, who created the infrastructure for the VA to provide rehabilitation for Veterans. Dr. Magnuson served the Truman administration until 1951 and, shortly thereafter, declared his vision to establish a medical rehabilitation hospital for American citizens.
The Founding and Evolution of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC)
Dr. Magnuson endeavored to start a first-ever hospital for citizens who suffered injuries to their bodies and brains. With very modest philanthropic means, Dr. Magnuson purchased a vacant printing building at 401 E. Ohio Street in Chicago, Ill., and a new organization was formally incorporated as the not-for-profit Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). By the spring of 1953, the building was converted into a small rehabilitation hospital and began serving a limited number of outpatients.
In 1958, the building was renovated, enabling the hospital to serve inpatients. In 1967, RIC formed an academic affiliation with Northwestern University, establishing a residency program in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), and soon thereafter appointed its first Chief Scientist. In 1974, RIC moved into a new location at 345 E. Superior Street in Chicago, Ill., and became the first free-standing rehabilitation hospital in the nation.
From RIC to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
In December 2009, RIC announced that it had purchased the site of the former Chicago CBS building site (355 E. Erie Street) on which to build a new hospital, expanding its capabilities and capacity. Groundbreaking took place on July 1, 2013.
In 2016, Pat and Shirley Ryan gave a transformative gift to the new research hospital, which would be called Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a change that would align with a new name and rebranding of the organization. Pathways.org, the organization founded by the Ryans 30 years ago, became part of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in 2017.
On March 25, 2017, RIC officially became known as the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, as it opened its new research hospital.
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab serves adults and children with the most severe, complex conditions — from traumatic brain and spinal cord injury to stroke, amputation-related and cancer-related functional impairment (i.e., physical/cognitive impairment or loss of function). They have introduced a model of care through five Innovation Centers focused on areas of biomedical science:
- Brain Innovation Center
- Spinal Cord Innovation Center
- Nerve, Muscle & Bone Innovation Center
- Pediatric Innovation Center
- Cancer Rehabilitation Innovation Center
Central to applying research during care are working labs in which interdisciplinary teams develop new research and insights to help patients gain more function and achieve better outcomes. Each lab has a unique configuration based on a targeted function and the type of experimentation taking place therein:
- Think + Speak Lab: Treatment for fundamental brain functions — arousal, lucidity, awareness, thinking, communication, perception, memory and learning.
- Legs + Walking Lab: Improvement of locomotion, gait and walking via trunk and pelvis stability; positioning and control of the hips, knees and ankles; as well as stepping and propulsion.
- Arms + Hands Lab: Improvement of hand function and movement, body and upper-limb coordination, strength, reaching and hand/finger control.
- Strength + Endurance Lab: Improvement of stamina and resilience, complex motor and endurance activities, coordination, and higher-level activities of daily living (ADL) (e.g., cooking, housekeeping, exercise, sports).
- Pediatric Lab: Treatment for all of the above, with a customized approach for the developing brains, bodies and conditions unique to children (infants to teens).
Research Scope and Diversity
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab strives to be the global source of science-driven breakthroughs in human ability. To take advantage of the convergence of new diverse technologies and science, it has designed its research program to integrate across disciplines (e.g. biomedical engineering, neuroscience, mechanical and electrical engineering, molecular and cellular biology, robotics, sensors and pharmacotherapeutics).
The organization’s research budget is $19.4M and its research enterprise is among the largest of its kind in the United States. It also has five federally designated and funded centers for research and training. It receives approximately five times more research funding than any other PM&R department in the country from a diverse range of sources, among them:
- NIDLIRR — National Institute of Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research
- NICHD — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- DOD — Department of Defense
- NIMH — National Institute of Mental Health
- NINDS — National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- NIBIB — National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering
- NSF — National Science Foundation
The organization’s research enterprise is renowned for breakthroughs in biomedical, neural, mechanical and electrical engineering; bionics; molecular/cellular biology; robotics and pharmacotherapeutics. At present, it has more than 350 clinical trials and research studies under way, from voluntary human-subject and applied research to proof-of-concept testing.
The Translational Model
One of the most significant challenges in healthcare is that scientific breakthroughs do not make their way to patients fast enough, if at all. The majority of science is conducted in laboratories that are physically separated from the clinical setting, often in different buildings. As a result, research in those healthcare or educational settings is not aligned with patients' needs. It takes an estimated average of 17 years for only 14% of new scientific discoveries to enter day-to-day clinical practice.
The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is designed around patients, not only for their care, but also for the advancement of recovery (i.e., ability). Reducing the amount of time it takes to go from scientific discovery to practical application was a primary driver behind developing this novel model for translational medicine. All Shirley Ryan AbilityLab research focuses on discovery that will directly benefit one or more of its patient populations — a structure that reverses the traditional university research model, in which researchers can pursue a personal scientific interest without central focus.
Proprietary Prototype of Translational Lab
In 2012, the organization began a living experiment by outfitting its existing facility with an ability lab, an applied-research and therapeutic space, on one floor. The prototype space allowed researchers to work shoulder-to-shoulder with patients, doctors and therapists. For five years, the pilot ability lab served as a key validation tool that shaped the vision and design for the new facility. Central to applying research during care are working translational ability labs in which interdisciplinary teams develop new research and insights to help patients gain more function (ability) and achieve better outcomes:
- Think + Speak Lab
- Legs + Walking Lab
- Arms + Hands Lab
- Strength + Endurance Lab
- Pediatric Lab
Research Labs and Centers
The hospital is also home to a number of other ground breaking research groups.
Center for Bionic Medicine
The Center for Bionic Medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the largest bionic research group in the world. Discoveries and innovations include:
- The first thought-controlled bionic arm and leg
- The first manual wheelchair to offer users mobility in either a seated or standing position
- Pattern recognition-based myoelectric control of partial-hand prostheses
- Lightweight powered lower-limb prostheses
- Targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR), a surgical technique that “rewires” amputated nerves and allows intuitive control and sensation of bionic arms and legs
A biomedical laboratory and equipment on the twenty-sixth floor of the hospital, comprising 10,280 square feet, enable the study of living human cells. These high-tech facilities are essential for solving patient conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles and connective tissues.
Max Nader Lab for Rehabilitation Technologies and Outcomes Research
This lab is one of the few clinical labs to develop and execute both industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated research in prosthetics, orthotics, rehabilitation robotics, as well as other assistive and adaptive technologies. Scientists have worked with more than two dozen industrial wearable robotics collaborators, including Ottobock, Honda, Össur, Ekso Bionics, ReWalk Robotics, Parker Hannifin, Hocoma, B-Temia Inc and Samsung to create pathways and practice guidelines for the use of technologies for individuals with various conditions, including stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. The lab also has dozens of research collaborations with top academic and research institutions, including Walter Reed Medical Research Center, Brooke Army Medical Center Research (BAMC–Research), Northwestern University, Stanford University, Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, University of California–Irvine, University of California–Davis, LA–EPFL and ETCH in Switzerland, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and University of Twente in the Netherlands, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and Imperial College London.
This lab also conducts outcomes-based research using advanced wearable sensors in addition to traditional performance-based and patient-reported measures. This lab is one of the first to deploy sensors in an inpatient, outpatient and home rehabilitation setting for various patient populations (e.g., stroke, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, amputations). It is one of the first to create customized personal models of algorithms for multimodal sensors that monitor patients in the hospital and at home.
Recognition and Awards
# 1 in Rehabilitation Medicine since 1991
The Shirley Ryan (and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago before it) has been designated the No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991.
Excellence in Nursing
Recognized in 2015 for the third consecutive time by the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program for leadership and exceptional nursing care — a distinction achieved by only 3% of all U.S. hospitals. Only 7% of all U.S. hospitals have any Magnet designations.
Recent Awards in Innovation, Architecture and Design
- Winner, Healthcare Category, Contract magazine Interiors Awards
- Business Impact of the Year Award, Magnificent Mile Association
- Winner, Best Healthcare Project, IIDA Illinois RED Awards
- Winner, Best Healthcare Project, IIDA Great Plains Chapter
- Winner, Best of Show, IIDA Great Plains Chapter
- Winner, New Construction over $55M, Chicago Building Congress Merit Awards
- Winner, American Architecture Award
- Award of Merit, Healthcare Design Showcase Awards, Healthcare Design magazine
- Popular Choice Winner, Architecture + Technology category, Architizer A+ Awards
- Honorable Mention, Health category, Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards (website) 
- Honorable Mention, Health category, Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards (building design) 
- Gold Award, Modern Healthcare Design Awards
- Winner, Chicago Innovation Awards
- Winner, Academic/Teaching Hospitals Category, International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Awards for Healthcare Design 
- Honor Award, Design Excellence Awards for Interior Architecture, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago
- Award of Merit, Health Care Category, Engineering News-Record Best of Regional Awards 
- Winner, Acute Care Category, Healthcare Environments Award sponsored by Contract magazine and the Center for Health Design
- Merit Award, Architecture Category, AIA Nebraska
- Winner, Health & Wellness Category, Interior Design Best of Year Awards
Education and Partnerships
In addition to expert clinical services, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab provides advisory and staff training services to healthcare organizations across the world that are seeking improved operating performance, clinical staff development or facility design support.
Academy & Continuing Clinical Education
The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Academy is its not-for-profit educational arm for healthcare practitioners. The Academy is dedicated to sharing the latest scientific discoveries and how these advances are changing clinical practice and improving patient outcomes. Through these continuing education programs, AbilityLab has helped thousands of physicians, nurses and allied health therapists advance in their respective fields and deliver the highest quality care to their patients.
Henry B. Betts LIFE Center
The Henry B. Betts LIFE Center is a multimedia education and advocacy center that provides opportunities for Learning, Innovation, Family and Empowerment (LIFE) for people living with functional impairment, their families/caregivers, health professionals, educators and the community. The LIFE Center is accessible to all, in person or online.
Additional Community Outreach & Resources
- Adaptive Sports & Fitness
- Caring for Kids
- Charity Care
- Military Sports & Veteran Services
- Vocational Rehabilitation
- Peer Mentoring
- Aphasia Groups and Classes
- Amputee Research Registry
- Clinical Research Registry
- Rehabilitation Outcomes Research Registry
- Community Health Needs Assessment
Academics and PM&R Residency Program
Academic home of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) Department, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab also serves as the primary clinical partner of the University’s McCormick School of Engineering.
Medical Residency in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R)
The organization was among the first rehabilitation hospitals to offer a medical residency program in this specialty, and remains one of the largest. It is a four-year program. AbilityLab also has five fellowship programs: Pediatrics, Sports Medicine, Pain, Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury.
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