Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago now officially becomes known as the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, with construction completed of a $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot facility dubbed the first-ever “translational” research hospital.

The facility, located at 355 E Erie Street in Chicago, was built to enable clinicians, scientists, innovators, and technologists to work together in the same space, 24/7, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches, and applying (or “translating”) research in real time.

“Science is now at a boiling point, with the convergence of disciplines and discovery — in computer capability, sensor technology, microbiology, pharmacology, material science, brain imaging and tissue engineering,” says Joanne C. Smith, MD, president and CEO of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, in a media release.

“With the design of our new hospital, we’re literally taking down walls to harness this moment and facilitate guided ‘collisions.’ With direct, ongoing exposure to a clinical environment, scientists will conduct research with greater intention, based on the needs of patients that they themselves observe. This model of translational research will change the way people work and the way patients get better, increasing the likelihood that promising research ideas will be converted into viable medical treatments.”

Radically Shifting Paradigm

“The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the only hospital in the world where doctors focused on solving patient challenges now work side-by-side with scientists focused on finding cures,” states Jude Reyes, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. “The result is focused discovery and innovation on behalf of patients, who will be poised to achieve their best possible recoveries here.”

The AbilityLab features five Innovation Centers focused on areas of biomedical science: Brain Innovation Center; Spinal Cord Innovation Center; Nerve, Muscle & Bone Innovation Center; Pediatric Innovation Center; and Cancer Rehabilitation Innovation Center.

In addition, the facility features several working labs, each with a unique configuration based on its function and the type of experimentation taking place therein.

The Think + Speak Lab is configured for treatment for fundamental brain functions — arousal, lucidity, awareness, thinking, communication, perception, memory and learning; and the Legs + Walking Lab is configured for 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.

The Arms + Hands Lab is built to research improvement of hand function and movement, body and upper-limb coordination, strength, reaching, and hand/finger control; and the Strength + Endurance Lab studies improvement of stamina and resilience, complex motor and endurance activities, coordination, and higher-level activities of daily living (eg, cooking, housekeeping, exercise, sports).

Also, the Pediatric Lab focuses on treatment for all of the above, with a customized approach for the developing brains, bodies, and conditions unique to children (infants to teens).

State-of-the-Art Space

The 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, which the media release touts as the largest freestanding rehabilitation hospital in the United States, features: 800,000 square feet dedicated to clinical/research; 242 private patient rooms, with opportunity for future expansion; comprehensive outpatient offerings with four times greater space; and MRI and CT services in-house (avoiding external referrals).

Several leading firms collaborated on the new hospital’s construction, design and experience, per the release: HDR Inc designed clinical areas such as inpatient units, patient rooms, outpatient spaces, exam rooms, the pharmacy and the radiology department; Gensler designed the hospital’s 27-floor structure, hybrid administrative office spaces, chapel and complex mechanical systems; and Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWa) designed the unique environments for the five ability labs. CWa also designed the finishes in the Sky Lobby and other public spaces.

In addition, EGG office designed the graphics that adorn the hospital’s entrance, Sky Lobby, ability labs, ambulance bay and café. It also designed all signage inside and outside of the facility, including donor and room signage; Arcadis served as the owner’s representative in overseeing the project; Art Agency, Partners, led by Allan Schwartzman, helped to identify artists and select or procure commissioned art for public spaces and patient areas within the hospital.

Also, Code and Theory designed the hospital’s new website; and Power Construction managed the hospital’s construction.

New Brand

Effective immediately, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will be branded the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the release continues.

“Our new brand reflects our vision and strategy, is differentiating and memorable, and underscores the important relationship between humanity and science,” explains Betsy Owens, chief marketing and innovation officer for the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. “Most importantly, it shifts the focus from disability to ability, and from the process of rehabilitation to the outcome.”

This new branding will be reflected at the Erie Street flagship hospital immediately and, shortly thereafter, at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s 40+ sites of care across Illinois and Indiana.

Funding Campaign Fuels the Project

The AbilityLab capital campaign, launched in 2013, had an initial fundraising goal of $300 million. Following the gift by Shirley W. and Patrick G. Ryan, the largest charitable investment in the organization’s 64-year history, RIC increased its campaign goal from $300 million to $350 million. With this monumental gift, Pathways, the entrepreneurial organization founded by the Ryans more than 30 years ago, has joined the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. Pathways, with its clinic and web organization, is a resource in early detection and intervention tools that maximize children’s motor, sensory and communication development, per the release.

“My husband and I have been completely captivated by the AbilityLab vision since we learned about the new hospital project in 2010,” says Shirley Ryan, in the release. “The innovative concept focuses not on rehabilitating patients, but on fostering their ability and potential. We’re honored to be part of the institution’s transformation and incredibly bright future, and thrilled that Pathways will continue to grow with the AbilityLab.”

In addition to the naming gift from the Ryans, many others made eight-figure gifts — among them, Mike and Lindy Keiser, the Harris Family Foundation, the Regenstein Foundation, Nancy Knowles, Timothy and Sharon Ubben, and multiple anonymous donors. With the campaign expected to close in December 2017, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is poised to meet, if not exceed, its $350 million goal.

The remaining costs of the new hospital have been financed through the combination of cash flow, existing funds, new debt and the sale of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago flagship hospital at 345 E. Superior Street in Chicago.

[Source: Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago]