Joanne C. Smith, MD

  • President and Chief Executive Officer, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
  • Assistant Professor, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Feinberg School of Medicine

Joanne C. Smith, MD, is a visionary leader and the driving force behind transforming the delivery of care in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). As President and Chief Executive Officer of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) for the past decade, Dr. Smith has led the organization in its mission to provide the highest-quality patient care with the best outcomes through integrated research, discovery and education. Today she is leading the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab into its bold vision for the future: to be the global source of science-driven breakthroughs in Human Ability.

For the past 27 years in a row, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has been named the #1 rehabilitation hospital by U.S. News & World Report. The scale of its research enterprise is the largest of its kind in the world. Under Dr. Smith’s leadership, the organization has experienced unprecedented growth and visibility. During her tenure as CEO, net revenues have increased 83% and cash reserves have grown 123%. During the same period, grant revenues have grown 105%. Dr. Smith has also extended the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s reach; today, it serves more than 57,500 patients annually from 43 states and 64 countries.

In addition to her leadership at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where she heads a team of 2,000 clinicians, scientists and staff, Dr. Smith is also a faculty member at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (NU-FSM) and a member of several professional organizations. In 2008, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She serves on the Healthcare Advisory Roundtable for Madison Dearborn Partners and on the Boards of Directors for Performance Health, Inc. and AptarGroup, Inc.

Dr. Smith earned a BS, cum laude, from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., an MD degree, with Alpha Omega Alpha distinction, from Michigan State University, and is Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She also holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

After completing her residency and chief residency at NU-FSM, Dr. Smith joined RIC as a practicing physician in 1992 and served the Institute in progressively expanded clinical, service development and operating roles. In 2006, she was appointed President and CEO. In 2017, RIC became the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab with the opening of its new, state-of-the-art research hospital.