Peggy Kirk and Nancy Paridy

Press Release

Peggy Kirk and Nancy Paridy Appointed to Lead Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Posted By Megan Washburn


CHICAGO — September 30, 2021 — Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) today announced the appointment of its next leaders: Peggy Kirk as president and chief executive officer (CEO), and Nancy Paridy as president and chief administrative officer (CAO). Seasoned veterans of the institution, Kirk and Paridy are uniquely positioned to advance the hospital’s vision, extend its reach and leverage the organization’s translational model to serve even more patients with the most severe, complex conditions. They will work together to lead Shirley Ryan AbilityLab; their appointments are effective immediately.

“Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has been ranked number one for 31 consecutive years because of the team behind its mission,” said M. Jude Reyes, board chair. “For decades, Peggy and Nancy have served as critical members of this team, foundational to establishing the organization’s vision that integrates care and research. They have the expertise and passion to carry the vision forward into the future.”

Kirk and Paridy succeed Joanne C. Smith, M.D., with whom they worked closely. They will continue to partner with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab executive leadership team — James Sliwa, DO, chief medical officer; Rick Lieber, PhD, chief scientific officer; Betsy Owens, chief marketing and innovation officer; Jonathan Tingstad, chief financial officer; and Laura Ferrio, chief advancement officer — to drive the organization forward.


Kirk, who joined the organization in 1981 as a nurse on the spinal cord injury unit, has served as chief operating officer and senior vice president since 2007. In this role, she oversees all clinical areas, including Inpatient, Outpatient, DayRehab, and partnerships with acute-care hospitals domestically and internationally. She leads clinical teams in caring for more than 50,000 patients from around the world annually while achieving industry-leading benchmarks.

“At our core, everything we do at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab — and, importantly, our care and research — are centered around helping patients, and giving them the best chance for recovery,” said Kirk. “Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has always been differentiated by its pioneering spirit and ability to define our field in the name of better patient outcomes. I’m honored to build on this legacy of innovation, and to partner with Nancy.”


Paridy, an attorney by training, established the organization’s Office of the General Counsel more than 26 years ago. Since then, she has taken on roles of increasing complexity and responsibility. Since 2016, she has served as chief administrative officer and senior vice president, overseeing human resources for the organization’s 2,000 clinicians, researchers and administrators; all legal matters; corporate compliance; facility and food service operations; government and community affairs; and board relations.


Additionally, both Paridy and Kirk served as integral members of the executive team charged with bringing to life Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s $550 million, 1.2 million square foot facility. The facility opened in 2017 as the first-ever translational research hospital, where 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. 

“At Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, our people and patients are central to our culture,” said Paridy. “Here, curiosity and compassion thrive while innovation and discovery fuel our mission. I am thrilled to collaborate with Peggy and our entire team, embracing the tenets that differentiate our organization while also elevating our vision for integrated patient care and research.”

“The Governing Board’s unanimous vote in support of Peggy and Nancy is testament to their unmatched leadership, ingenuity and experience,” said Reyes. “We have full faith in their ability to propel our organization for the benefit of patients worldwide.”

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