In 1977, while working in the hospital as a third-year medical student, Dr. Douglas Dieterich was accidentally stuck with a needle contaminated with hepatitis. And for the next 20 years, he struggled with regular and debilitating episodes of exhaustion, jaundice and high fevers. But he did not quit medicine. Instead Dr. Dieterich continued to train and then to practice, eventually becoming a national expert in hepatitis C, the very disease he had acquired. Clinical trials of drugs to combat the disease, some led by Dr. Dieterich, have resulted in a better understanding of the virus that causes hepatitis C and, more recently, to cures. About 10 years ago, Dr. Dieterich himself was finally cured with one of the drug combinations that he had helped to study. Now a professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, Dr. Dieterich said recently: "In the dark days of the 1980s, I remember being really sick and thinking, 'Damn it. I hope I can help someone else before this virus gets me.' Now it looks like I can. I think it's the beginning of the end of hepatitis C; and that is one of the happiest statements I can make."