Community Services Advocate, Judith Panko-Reis, Honored for Commitment to Advocacy for Women with Disabilities - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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RIC in the News

Published on March 19, 2007

RIC Community Services Advocate, Judith Panko-Reis, Honored for Commitment to Advocacy for Women with Disabilities

The Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago today honored women's advocate, Judith Panko-Reis, MA, MS, the director of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) Women with Disabilities Center (WWDC), for her commitment to helping provide support services to women with disabilities at their fourth biennial Women Who Dared luncheon.

Panko-Reis, the founder and director of the RIC Women with Disabilities Center (WWDC) at RIC, was honored for her support and promotion for the rights of others. The WWDC offers programs and services tailored to the life changes and ongoing issues for women with disabilities.

"The education and support provided at the RIC Women with Disabilities Center empowers women with disabilities to live a more independent life," said Laura Ferrio, RN, MSN, MBA, CRRN, vice president, Patient Care Services and Chief Nurse Executive, "These resources and support networks are an important piece of the RIC's mission to provide the most comprehensive rehabilitation services available to people with disabilities."

As a result of a random violent assault while vacationing in Hawaii more than 20 years ago, Panko-Reis has been living with the residual affects of a traumatic brain injury. Through her own experience living as a woman with a disability, Panko-Reis shed light on the need for specialized services for women with disabilities more than 15 years ago.

"For a woman with a disability, participation in daily life can mean finding creative ways to access daily activities," said Judith Panko-Reis, founder and director of the RIC WWDC. "At the RIC WWDC, we help identify accessible resources and provide a support network to ensure continued health and well being for girls and women with disabilities."

Founded in 1991, the WWDC became the first health resource center run by women for women and teenage girls with disabilities. Under the direction of a community board of women with disabilities, the WWDC offers weekly support groups, mentorship programs and individual consultations to help problem-solve.

The Center also provides specialized programs on topics such as parenting with a disability and emergency preparedness for people with disabilities, and publishes a free monthly newsletter called Resourceful Woman.
The Jewish Women's Foundation, The Women's Division of the Jewish United Fund and the Jewish Women's Archive host the biennial Women Who Dared luncheon in celebration of Women's History Month.

Other honorees recognized at the luncheon include Hedy M. Ratner, founder and Co-President of the Women's Business Development Center and Amy Rubin, the Senior Manager for Community Outreach for Jewish Women International.

About The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is dedicated to helping people with all levels and types of physical disabilities live a fulfilling life. U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIC the "#1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America" every year since 1991. RIC operates a flagship hospital in Chicago as well as a network of DayRehabCenters and outpatient centers located throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. It also maintains strategic alliances with other healthcare providers throughout the state of Illinois and north central Indiana.

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