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WBUR Oral History Project: David Storto

David Storto

Interviewed by: Jayne Guberman

Date: February 3, 2014

Location: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (Charlestown, MA)

Recorder: Joanna Shea O'Brien

Photo: David Storto and Jayne Guberman (Photo by Joanna Shea O'Brien)




David Storto, President of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and of Partners Continuing Care Network since 1998, grew up in a large Italian family in Detroit and began his career as a social worker.  After attending law school, he moved into hospital management. He traces his interest in rehabilitation to experiences from his childhood: both the aftermath of his father suffering several strokes, and his own disabling experiences with recurrent rheumatic fever.

In his interview, David charts the changes that occurred at Spaulding, and in the rehabilitation field generally, since his arrival in 1997.  He discusses the creation of Partners Continuing Care in 2001 and its continuing evolution into one of the most highly respected rehabilitation centers in the country.  Spaulding’s new hospital on the site of the Boston Navy Yard, which opened just days after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, was the culmination of years of planning.

David recounts the long-term importance of running in his life, as well as his decision to run the Boston Marathon after a mid-life crisis when he turned fifty.  He relates his initial experience as the lone runner raising funds for Spaulding in 2005, and the development of a strong core of runners on the Spaulding team over the ensuing years. 

David describes the start of Marathon Day 2013, as he traveled out to the starting line in Hopkinton with team members.  His twenty-five year old son was running on the Spaulding team for the first time, and although they had often trained together, his son left him far behind as leg cramps caused David to slow down.  He describes how he, along with thousands of other runners, was forced to stop as he approached Massachusetts Avenue, and how he learned about explosions at the finish line. 

In the harrowing hours that followed, David made his way to the Boston Sheraton Hotel, where he was reunited with his son and wife, as well as others from Spaulding.  Later he walked with a small group to their Nashua Street facility, where they set up a temporary command center and began assisting acute care hospitals by taking on patients who could be moved to Spaulding.  Later that week, Spaulding admitted four survivors to this “old” facility. 

At the same time, David and his staff were making agonizing decisions throughout the week about whether or not to continue with plans for a weekend of gala events celebrating the opening of Spaulding’s new facility.  In consultation with Mayor Menino, he decided to postpone the gala to Saturday. The event struck the “right tones,” recognizing those who had been killed and injured, those who had responded, and the spirit of “Boston Strong” which animated the city.

The following week, Spaulding began to move patients into its new facility.  David describes a flawless move-in day, fraught with emotions for both patients and staff.  Over the ensuing weeks, Spaulding admitted and cared for 32 Boston Marathon survivors.  Spaulding staff provided skilled care for them, as well as emotional and psychological support for them and their families over the following months.  Among the challenges staff dealt with was the onslaught of media attention, as well as the widespread interest among celebrities, sports figures, and others in visiting the survivors.  Although this attention provided invaluable opportunities to educate the public about the value of rehabilitative medicine, it also posed numerous challenges for both patients and staff. 

At the conclusion of the interview, David notes that although he had planned for 2013 to be his last Boston Marathon, he realized that he had to run one more time.

Audio Clip 1

David Storto describes how he sees his role as supporter for first-time runners on the Spaulding team, as well as how Spaulding builds team spirit.

Audio Clip 2

David describes setting up a command center in Spaulding’s Nashua Street facility, after walking there from the Prudential Center in the aftermath of the bombings.    

Audio Clip 3

David recalls making agonizing decisions about whether to go forward with a gala celebrating Spaulding’s move to its new state-of-the-art facility in the midst of the city-wide lock-down on the weekend following the bombings.

Audio Clip 4

David describes an emotional move-in day when 112 patients were transferred from Nashua Street to Spaulding’s brand new facility in Charlestown the week after the bombings

Audio Clip 5

David reflects on the impact of attention from the media, as well as numerous celebrities, on patient care.

Full Interview

Related Links

WBUR Oral History Project: Stories from the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network

Maureen Banks (COO of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, First Time Marathoner)

Dara Casparian and Samantha Conley (Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, Provided Rehabilitation Care to Survivors)

Suzette Chiong-Oglesby (Clinical Nurse Manager, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, Mother of Marathon Runner, Marathon Spectator, Witness to Bombings, Treated Survivors)

Dr. David Crandell (Director of Amputee Services at Spaudling Rehabilitation Network, Marathon Runner)

Dr. Leslie Morse (Spaulding Physician, BAA Marathon Medical Tent Volunteer, First Responder)

Timothy Sullivan (Director of Communications, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network)



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