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A Doctor's 35-Year "Grudge Match" Against Hepatitis C
Dr. Douglas Dieterich got hepatitis C from a patient when he was in medical school. When he recovered, he switched specialties to fight the disease.
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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Sanjay Gupta, MD, Everyday Health:Dr. Douglas Dieterich is a leading specialist in hepatitis C. When he was in medical school he was planning on becoming an ophthalmologist, an eye doctor. But one mistake with a needle changed his life, and his career, forever.
How did you get interested in hepatitis?
Douglas Dieterich, MD, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai:I got interested in hepatitis C the hard way. That is, I stuck myself with a needle and I got it when I was a medical student.
Dr. Gupta:Did you know right away when you stuck yourself? I mean how worried were you at that time?
Dr. Dieterich:I knew I was in trouble.
Dr. Gupta:What did you experience?
Dr. Dieterich:Oh, I got really sick, I got jaundiced, you know, yellow. I was bedridden for a couple of months.
Dr. Gupta:But that changed your life in many ways.
Dr. Dieterich:It did, it did actually. It did a lot of things, actually. It changed my perspective on life. I decided that I needed to fight back actually. This was a grudge match now.
Dr. Gupta:A grudge match against hepatitis C. But back then, very little was known about this disease. How does one start that process of fighting back?
Dr. Dieterich:I did a lot of HIV research and treatment and learned a lot about viruses and the immune system, which has actually helped a lot once we started to figure out what was going on with hepatitis C.
Dr. Gupta:Do you still have hepatitis C?
Dr. Dieterich:I don’t. I have been cured for like 14 years now, actually.
Dr. Gupta:You took some of these earlier drugs including Interferon, what was that like?
Dr. Dieterich:Interferon has lots of side effects, flu-like side effects. You know that first day when you are just coming down with a viral infection or the flu? You feel terrible and irritable and then you start getting chills and fever. It’s like you get an injection like that every week.
Dr. Gupta:Today doctors have much better treatments for fighting hepatitis C, drugs that can attack the virus directly. They are far more effective and they also don’t have the terrible side effects that Dr. Dieterich experienced. When Dr. Dieterich began his “grudge match” against hepatitis C, he had few tools. Today, he can finally say he’s winning. With Everyday Health, I’m Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Be well.
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