RI to Get Cutting-Edge Cancer Rehabilitation Services
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Project STAR, created from the pioneering work of Julie K. Silver, MD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, addresses the complex medical and therapeutic needs of survivors of cancer. Project STAR has been incorporated into Kent Hospital, South County Hospital, the Rehabilitation Hospital of RI, and Rhode Island Rehabilitation Centers. Within a few months, these programs (which will be covered in RI by health insurance) will complete accreditation and be available to patients.
Dr. Julie Silver: the necessity of rehab
Silver, who took advantage of her expertise as a physician, created a rehabilitation process that enabled her to return to her duties as "a wife, a mother, and a doctor," she says. "I rehabbed myself." But, Silver asked herself, what about all those people who are not physicians?
Silver set out to quickly and effectively implement a cancer rehabilitation program as "part of medical care," she says. "This is not just about massage and acupuncture, or referring someone to an exercise class. This might involve medications, injections, as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy. This is individualized medical treatment."
Rhode Island's role
Although other hospitals in other states are implementing Project STAR, Rhode Island plays a specific, historic role, Silver says. "In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, New York state realized that a lot of men had heart attacks, were on disability, and never went back to work. The state made an effort to rehabilitate these men and it evolved into cardiac rehabilitation. I thought, 'If New York led the way in cardiac rehabilitation, why can't another state lead the way in cancer rehabilitation care?'"
Rhode Island was the perfect state, Silver explains, because its small size and infrastructure allowed the program to more easily coordinate adoption and coverage, to reach the goal of every survivor in the state having access to rehab that insurance would cover.
Leadership from Gemma Foundation
Silver found a perfect partner in the Gloria Gemma Foundation. "I have to say that the folks at Gloria Gemma really got it right away," she says. "They said, 'We should have this.'"
Silver says the Foundation led the way in encouraging hospitals to adopt Project STAR, and provided crucial financial support.
Silver, who has been in and out of the state on a frequent basis, will be back on September 22 for a pre-launch event. By early 2012, she says, Rhode Islanders looking for much-needed rehabilitation support on the other side of their cancer therapies, will be able to find it. And have it covered.
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