President & CAO
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
Location: Cook County
Year Founded: 1953
Industry Group Specific: Healthcare - physical medicine and rehabilitation
As a young girl, Nancy Paridy liked to play school and her favorite Golden book was Nurse Nancy. “The thing I loved more than anything was helping solve problems,” she said. “When I was in high school, I decided that I was either going to go into healthcare or law, and as I assessed both fields, I realized they actually have many similarities: you have to be a problem solver, teacher and diagnostic technician.”
As Paridy has grown in her career as the president and chief administrator officer at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, she said she has stayed true to who she is, honoring the dreams of the little girl she once was.
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, is the global leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation for adults and children with the most severe, complex conditions, from traumatic brain and spinal cord injury to stroke, amputation and cancer-related impairment. The quality of its care has led to the designation of the No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991 while serving 50,000 patients each year.
As a long-standing leader of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Paridy understands firsthand the differentiated care offered by the hospital and the incredible recoveries generated as a result.
Under Paridy’s leadership, the organization changed names, built a state-of-the-art research hospital and transformed the model of care by integrating science and medicine. The goal was to shift the focus and framework from the process of rehabilitation to the outcome of ability. “After six years in the new hospital, once-serendipitous encounters between scientists and clinicians have transformed into intentional, interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Paridy. “Discovery is pursued with greater focus and urgency.”
Paridy has been instrumental in developing a coalition of institutions across the country and the passage of the Dr. Joanne Smith Memorial Rehabilitation Innovation Centers Act, a bill designed to recognize select rehabilitation research facilities across the country. She also created the I.D.E.A. Council which champions inclusion, diversity, equity and action.
Leading a hospital during a pandemic prompted novel challenges and opportunities over the last three years, Paridy said. In response, she and her team launched a COVID care unit, leveraged research capabilities, launched a telehealth program and extended expertise into the outpatient realm.
“To me, being a titan is about continually demonstrating authenticity, ingenuity, curiosity and drive,” said Paridy. “It’s about putting other people first, facilitating perspective-sharing and collaboration among those with diverse viewpoints and coming together for the greater good.”
Bringing those together who can advance the healthcare industry is Paridy’s specialty and has earned her the title of a Titan 100.
I am fortunate to have an ever-present store of energy that I am able to tap into as I fulfill all aspects of my life — family, work, volunteer roles, friends, etc., while ensuring I cherish each moment.