HL20: Douglas Dieterich, MD—Winning a Grudge Match With Hepatitis C

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , December 13, 2012

Ask Dieterich how it feels to have made such a difference in healthcare and he avoids the question, instead drawing on his own personal experience with the cure.

"It feels fantastic to be back to normal," he says. "Ask any of my patients who have been cured and they'll tell you."

Still, treatment for the disease is difficult and trying for patients who sometimes want to give up, as he once did. Dieterich says his experience on "both sides of the bed rail" has helped him practice medicine differently, and with more compassion. For instance, patients undergoing treatment regularly need liver biopsies, which can be very painful. That's why he always uses sedation for patients undergoing one, which is not always the standard of practice.

Otherwise, he generally tries to avoid anything that would clue patients in to his own struggles unless he really needs it, calling his experience his "trump card."

"I had it for 20 years before I was cured," he says. "When I really need it, I can use my experience and tell patients, 'suck it up. I did this, too.' "

Philip Betbeze is senior leadership editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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