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Portrait of a Grateful Employee
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Portrait of a Grateful Employee - Cheryl O'Hara

Frequently our stories in Orthopaedic Surgery focus on grateful patients.  This quarter, we speak with a retired employee of UC Davis Health System.

Sherry O'Hara

If you have seen an orthopaedic surgeon in the region, chances are Cheryl (Sherry) O’Hara has been part of their training.

O’Hara worked as an operating room nurse for 16 years with UC Davis Health System before her retirement in 2000. While she specialized in the spine area with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, she also overlapped and worked in trauma surgery and heart surgery.

At the time of her retirement, O’Hara was a Clinical Nurse III with multiple responsibilities that included assisting in surgeries, watching over OR suites and managing care plans for orthopaedic surgery patients.

“I really admired and loved working with the residents,” O’Hara says about working with orthopaedic surgeons in the OR. “They are so passionate about what they do – so dedicated.”

She also enjoyed the high degree of precision and logic involved. During her years in the OR, O’Hara did a “fair amount of training” of nurses – and admitted that she also helped residents learn a thing or two as well. 

“We all worked as a team,” she says. “If I had knowledge I learned from one of the faculty – and we were all constantly learning – I would pass it along to the residents as well as the nurses.” 

O’Hara admits that the hardest part of her job was watching residents graduate and move on.  “I hated saying good-bye,” she says. “It got to be very difficult every year when the residents and their families left. I enjoyed the relationships we built over the years during their residencies.” 

O’Hara started her career working with developmentally delayed patients as a psychiatric technician at Porterville State Hospital, before moving on to work at the Alzheimer’s unit at Napa State Hospital. She then became an animal health technician and worked for a local veterinarian, assisting in the clinic and operating room, for 11 years. She decided it was time to go back to school and earned her RN degree at American River College in 1983, which launched her career at UC Davis.

As a retiree, she now enjoys her time crocheting, knitting and sewing – which all help to keep her fingers nimble. Gardening at a son’s home is also a favorite passion – he gives her license to be as creative as she would like.

“What a dream ‘job,’ ” she says. “I wish everyone was as easy to please as he is.”

With her husband, Jim, O’Hara also invests in the past with collectables that are heartfelt, including gas station memorabilia (“My husband managed a Chevron Station for 25 years,” O’Hara says); mining hats with carbide lanterns (“Jim's grandfather and father worked underground in Park City, Utah”) and family photos of “ancestors long gone but still in our hearts.”

When asked why she donated to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery O’Hara said, “We received a mailing suggesting donations to the Department, specifically to the Residents Program.  I value these young dedicated people very highly. I'm grateful to have been given the opportunity to direct our contribution toward their support. Make sure we remain on your mailing list!”

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