Listen to Ron's Interview with Mark Vonnegut
The Heart of Caring: Stories from a Passionate Life in Pediatrics
Pediatrician Mark Vonnegut has spent nearly 40 years treating children for coughs, fevers, ear infections, and sometimes more serious medical conditions. Over that time, he has seen the U.S. health care system change in ways he couldn’t have imagined as a medical student. Some good, others not so much. But what hasn’t change over the span of his career is the commitment to his young patients, whose stories fill the pages of his new book, “The Heart of Caring.” In today’s episode, Dr. Vonnegut recounts some of the cases that have struck him over the years—and what he has learned from them—as well as the challenges he has encountered in the practice of medicine. He doesn’t pull any punches. He talks about the consequences of the privatization of health care and the skyrocketing costs of insurance and pharmaceuticals, and—as a self-described “refugee from mental illness,” he points out the barriers to mental health services. But along with his diagnosis of the health care establishment, he offers prescriptions for making the system better and more centered on what’s good for patients. Over the course of today’s conversation, Dr. Vonnegut, a second-time author, will take us along the journey of a career that is ultimately a love letter to his patients and his profession, with many heartbreaks, but also great hopes.
After writing The Eden Express, a memoir detailing his struggle with psychosis and manic depression, Mark Vonnegut gained acceptance to Harvard Medical School, from which he graduated in 1979. The father of two grown sons and the grandfather of five, he lives with his wife and his youngest son in Milton, Massachusetts, where he continues to practice primary care pediatrics. Dr. Vonnegut is also the author of Just Like Someone without Mental Illness Only More So (Delacorte Press, 2010). His new book is The Heart of Caring: A Life in Pediatrics (Seven Stories Press, 2022).