Patient-turned-employee retires after 50 years

sherrie

One of our dietitians, Sherrie Hardy, recently celebrated her retirement after 50 years at Primary Children’s Hospital — first as a patient, then a part-time employee through college and finally as a full-time dietitian for the hospital.

"When you learn about Sherrie Hardy's legacy, you learn a lot about Primary Children's," says Sara Browning, one of Sherrie’s colleagues.

Part of what you learn about Primary Children’s, is that it’s far more than just a hospital for sick kids. It’s a community of caregivers, parents and kids who work together to help kids still be kids, no matter their situation.

That’s what brought Sherrie back to Primary Children’s after spending time here as a patient and that’s what kept her here for a half-century.

"My first experience here was at age 14, when I was a patient," Hardy says. "It was at the hospital in the Avenues when there was just one wing, and the beds we had were cribs — a 14-year-old sleeping in a crib!”

That crib may not have been the most comfortable, but it didn’t cloud Sherrie’s perception of the hospital. It was just the opposite — because she had such a positive experience as a patient, she decided to volunteer as a candy striper to help kids like her on the floor. After four years of volunteering, she got her first job at the hospital washing dishes in the hospital’s kitchen. She then decided to go to school full-time to become a dietitian and continued to work nights and weekends at the hospital.

“This is the only place I've ever worked, I never took any breaks.” Hardy says.

Career in Dietetics

As Sherrie was finishing graduate school, she landed an internship at the hospital. Then, when the internship was over, there was an opening for a dietitian and she became the hospital's only clinical dietitian.

"I was fortunate that the timing worked out perfectly," Hardy says.

Sherrie helped form the hospital's first diabetes team in 1973 and continued to play an integral part on that team until her retirement.

One of the first members of that team described the experience this way, “We felt overwhelmed, but what Sherrie provided was enthusiasm and balance. She was rarely downhearted, and that helped the rest of us tremendously."

In those early days, diabetes clinics were held every other week and around 20 new patients were diagnosed each year.

“Because there were so few kids diagnosed at that time, we knew everybody," Hardy says. "Meeting with the families and getting to know them was the most meaningful part of my job."

Along with running diabetes camps for more than 40 years, Sherrie also lobbied for legislation on diabetes supplies and treatments in Utah and Washington, D.C., and served in several leadership roles with the American Dietetic Association and American Diabetes Association.

"Over the decades, although the medical care for diabetes has changed tremendously, the emotional impact of a diagnosis on a family's life has stayed the same. As bright as we paint the picture, it still changes families' lives," Sherrie says. "When I started working, they said that there'd be a cure in 10 years. We're not there yet, but we'll keep trying."

A Lasting Legacy

Sherrie helped thousands of patients to live their lives to the fullest by managing their diabetes. A handful of patients were so inspired by her work that they became dietitians themselves.

Melanie Taylor was one of those patients.

"I've had diabetes for 35 years and Sherrie has been my dietitian, but more than that, she's been a mentor and a role model for me," Taylor says. "I went on to become a dietitian myself and we have spent lots of time together at diabetes camp, doing everything from planning activities to mopping floors."

She also turned to Sherrie for advice when her own son was diagnosed with diabetes.

"Over the last six years, I've seen Sherrie at clinic again with my son. I'm so grateful for the influence she’s had on my life," Melanie says. "I owe so much to Sherrie and am glad that she stuck this out for all these years."

Another former patient, Savannah Zabriskie, decided to pursue a career as a pediatric nurse because of Sherrie's influence.

"Sherrie's smiling face at clinic helped me know that I could do anything," Savannah says. "And even with diabetes, I knew that there was hope. And that helped me so much throughout my life. I'm so thankful for her."