Prancing with the STARS: New rehab unit gets patients back on their feet

Before her scheduled spinal surgery at UCSF earlier this year, Jane Negoro of Fresno was unable to sit, stand or walk.

Bella Nudelman, a patient in the STARS program, works with Jim Weslow, the Jewish Home’s director of rehabilitation services. photos/courtesy of the jewish home

Then the 79-year-old Fresno resident entered a two-year-old rehab unit at the Jewish Home of San Francisco for a brief but extensive physical therapy program.

“STARS was really beneficial before the surgery because she got stronger,” said Jane’s daughter, Pam Negoro of Los Angeles.

STARS stands for short-term and rehabilitation services, and it offers temporary (fewer than 100 days) oversight to Medicare patients before or after their stay in an acute hospital.

It helps patients before and after procedures such as back, hip or knee surgery, and also helps them recuperate following pneumonia, strokes and congestive heart failure.

Jim Weslow, the director of rehabilitation services at the Jewish Home, said the STARS unit provides several types of therapy (physical, occupational and speech) as well as rehab care, wound care and antibiotic treatments.

“Our goal is to return the patient to his or her prior level of function,” Weslow said.

While many think of the Jewish Home mainly as a skilled nursing facility — it does house more than 400 residents with diverse care needs — the STARS unit has its own full-time staff and its own floor in the modern Friedman Pavilion.

In November 2007, the Jewish Home launched STARS, swinging open its doors to patients who weren’t residents at the home. Since then, people of all faiths and cultures have flocked to STARS from across the United States and Canada.

“It’s very rewarding to work here,” Weslow said.

One of the things that makes the program special, said Weslow, is its interdisciplinary focus. The STARS team consists of cooperative efforts between doctors, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, surgeons, social workers and patient families.

“Patients benefit from the fact that everyone works as a team,” said Dr. Theresa Allison, the director of the STARS unit and family doctor with a specialty in geriatrics. “It takes the whole team to care for the patient.”

The STARS unit is located in the Jewish Home’s glass-domed Friedman Pavilion.

STARS follows a transitional care model, which helps reduce medical errors. Active communication is maintained between STARS, the patient’s hospital and the patient’s personal physician, said Pat Rykbos, admissions coordinator for STARS.

Pam Negoro had nothing but good things to say about her mother’s time in the STARS unit, both before and after her back surgery in January.

“Everything was so scheduled, everyone was so friendly, and everything was on time and so well run,” she said. “I live in Los Angeles and my brother lives in Fresno, but we were so confident my mother was getting good care.”

Other features at STARS include a supervised fitness center, a garden café and on-site pharmacists. There are also extracurricular activities for patients such as painting and ceramics, movies, lectures and use of computers.

Not only that, but STARS is “a pet-friendly community,” Allison said. “You can visit with our in-house rabbits and birds, or get to know a volunteer’s or employee’s dog.

“We encourage staff to bring in pets for their therapeutic benefit,” she added. “Often the most traumatic part of a hip fracture, for example, is being separated from your pet.”

But petting a dog in the hallways is one thing — rehabbing and returning to one’s own bed is quite another.

“We’re so excited about getting people home again,” said Allison, “and that enthusiasm is contagious for the entire interdisciplinary team.”


For more information on STARS: (415) 469-2286, [email protected] or


Steven Friedman

Steven Friedman is a freelance writer.