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Posted By Meg Washburn

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O&P Almanac

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When you close your eyes and imagine the future of O&P and rehabilitative care, what do you see? What technologies enable your patients to walk with confidence? What devices improve their ability to drive a car or pick up their child? What do their faces look like as they experience their first breakthrough or success?

This exercise is the vision behind the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, which opened in Chicago in late March. Formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), the AbilityLab has reinvented itself with a new $550 million, 1.2 million-square-foot research hospital. The state-of-the-art facility aimed at “advancing human ability” features the latest innovations and advancements to help patients suffering from the most severe and complex injuries and conditions — from smart-thinking-speaking technology and equipment for stroke and head injury patients to experimental electromyography and movement analysis for patients with mobility issues.

Most innovative of all is the facility’s goal to remove the barriers between research labs and clinical spaces to allow for “science-driven breakthroughs in human ability.” The organization is embracing the concept of translational medicine, which is defined by the European Society of Translational Medicine as “an interdisciplinary branch of the biomedical field supported by three main pillars: bench-side, bedside, and community. The goal of translational medicine is to combine disciplines, resources, expertise, and techniques within these pillars to promote enhancements in prevention, diagnosis, and therapies.”

The AbilityLab is “a space where researchers and clinical care, therapy services and physicians, will be intermingled and geographically together, not only to help stimulate new ideas for research but also to help translate research down into clinical care as quickly as possible,” says James Sliwa, DO, the facility’s chief medical officer and senior vice president of medical affairs.

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