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WBUR Oral History Project: Dr. David King

Dr. David King

Interviewed by: Jayne Guberman

Date: February 24th, 2014

Location: Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Recorder: Jim McGrath

Photo: Dr. David King (Photo supplied by Dr. King)




Dr. David King is a trauma and acute care surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital.  During his medical residency, he joined the US Army and was subsequently deployed as a front line doctor in Iraq (2008) and Afghanistan (2011).  Now a lieutenant colonial in the US Army Reserves, David continues to be interested in many aspects of acute care and mass casualty rapid response.

David is an avid runner and triathlete who has participated in some forty to fifty marathons over the past twelve years, including four previous Boston Marathons.  On Marathon Day, he was focused on finishing in 3 hours and 15 minutes, the qualifying time for his age group.  After crossing the finish line, he was in a cab heading home with his family when he started receiving strange messages asking if he were okay, including one that mentioned an explosion.  Unable to access his web browser, he decided to have his wife take him directly into the hospital.

Walking into the trauma center at the Mass General emergency room, he immediately saw a pattern of injuries among the five to six patients already there that he knew must be the result of an improvised explosive device.  Within three minutes of arrival, he was taking a patient to operating room. Over the ensuing hours and days, David worked tirelessly with his team to stabilize and operate on the most acutely injured survivors, many of whom required multiple surgeries, including amputations.  During this initial period of acute care, he also interacted with family members and escorted President Obama, when he came to comfort survivors on the Thursday following the bombings. 

In his interview, David talks about lessons learned on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan that have become well integrated into acute care of patients suffering traumatic injuries here at home.  He discusses the emergency response systems in place at Mass General, as well as the coordination among Boston-area trauma hospitals that directed ambulances to the various facilities, thereby saving the lives of so many seriously injured patients.  Finally, he reflects on the importance of every member of the hospital team, from the surgeon, nurses, and anesthesiologists, to the cafeteria workers and those who clean the operating rooms between surgeries.  Everyone, he points out, plays a vital role when the care of grievously injured patients is at stake. 

Audio Clip 1

Dr. King talks about the process of treating mass causalities.

Audio Clip 2

Dr. King talks about Mass General Hospital and their response to the Boston Marathon bombings. He also describes how a team of people work together to help save a life.

Audio Clip 3

Dr. King reflects on the challenges of trauma care and how the medical team has to manage in an acute setting.

Full Interview


Related Links

Boston Marathon Reflections: "It Was Clearly Some Kind of IED." (WBUR)



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