Joanne C. Smith, MD
Last updated 9/22/2021 at 8:25pm | View PDF
Joanne C. Smith, MD, president and CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and a Hinsdale resident, died Sept. 6, 2021 following treatment for cancer. She was 60.
Smith was the driving force behind the transformation of care delivery in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. As the president and CEO of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, 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.
Smith came to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for her residency in 1988 and never left. In 1992, she became an attending physician and was subsequently tapped to take on various leadership roles of increasing responsibility. In 2006, a few years after earning her MBA from the University of Chicago, she became president and CEO.
Shortly into her appointment as CEO, Smith had a what she described as an epiphany. Medicine, science and technology were at a boiling point with the convergence of disciplines and discoveries. She leveraged this moment, pursuing a strong calling by placing leading-edge science labs right into the clinical environment for the benefit of patients and research. In essence, she envisioned "the world's leading ability research institute within a hospital."
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab - the manifestation for the vision and a $550 million, 1.2 million-square-foot research hospital - opened on March 25, 2017, gaining national and international accolades. Just recently, the hospital once again was ranked No. 1 in rehabilitation by U.S. News & World Report for the thirty-first year in a row - a level of distinction, quality and outcomes unmatched by any other hospital.
Smith was widely recognized as a thought leader. In 2021 and 2019, she was named to Modern Healthcare's exclusive "Top 25 Women Leaders" list. In 2019, she spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the nation's premier public gathering of leaders from around the globe. In 2018, she presented at the first-ever Wall Street Journal Future of Everything Festival, an ideas exchange focused on innovations that are transforming the world.
In addition to her leadership at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where she managed a team of more than 2,000 clinicians, scientists and staff, she was a faculty member at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine for 25 years. She also served for more than a decade on the Healthcare Advisory Roundtable for Madison Dearborn Partners and for more than two decades on the board of directors for AptarGroup Inc.
With great love for serving as president and CEO, Smith most valued her roles of wife and mother.
She is survived by her husband, Rory Repicky; their children, Claire and Michael Repicky; and a large extended family, in which she was one of nine children.
A service was held Sept. 14 at Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago.
Interment was private.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, 355 E. Erie St., Sky Lobby 10th Floor, South Suite, Chicago, IL, 60611 Attn: Advancement Office (please write in the memo line: In Memory of Joanne C. Smith, M.D.); or University of Chicago Medicine, Medicine & Biological Sciences Development, 130 E. Randolph St., Suite 2500
Chicago, IL 60601, Attn: Katy Solomon (please write in the memo line: Ernst Lengyel M.D. Research, In Memory of Joanne C. Smith, M.D.
Donnellan Family Funeral Services of Skokie handled the arrangements.