As a gynecologist and obstetrician, Dr. Sharon Fillerup treats all types and ages of patients — pregnant ones, nervous ones, leaky ones.
The one thing they have in common is their gender.
That pretty much describes Dr. Fillerup herself, who was one of the earliest female OB-GYNs to practice in Northern Utah. Her life has seen as many switches as a dirt road near her hometown of Cody, Wyo.
Her journey has taken her from Wyoming farm girl just outside of Yellowstone National Park to accomplished physician at Tanner Clinic. There’s been a lot of curves — some that caused spills. Maybe that’s why she’s known for her straight- forward and straight-talking attitude.
The road ahead
Early on, Dr. Fillerup had her sights set on working with the wild landscape that raised her. As a student at Cody High School, she won first in state in agronomy, a science that deals with crop production and soil management. In her spare time, she qualified as a member of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.
She moved on to Brigham Young University, earning a bachelor’s degree in botany and range science. In the summers, she worked as a range conservationist with the U.S. Forest Service.
The first big curve
After college, however, the future began to press in. “I was supposed to get married and have a family,” she says now. She needed a trade, she thought — one where she could “work two days a week and stay home with the kids.”
She decided that job was as a dental hygienist and, after earning her certificate at Sheridan (Wyo.) College, she moved to Seattle where she worked for four years in what she now describes as pretty much a “dead end.”
So, when the family expectations dwindled, says Dr. Fillerup, “I thought, well, if I have to take care of myself, I guess I’d better get back to school.”
Switchback to medical school
Dr. Fillerup settled on the University of Utah School of Medicine, where she was one of 10 women in her class of 100 students. Then, with her MD in hand, she headed to Texas Tech University for a residency in obstetrics and gynecology. That went swell for three months — until she was hit by a truck while on her bicycle.
“I went into the hospital as Jane Doe, was in the hospital for two weeks, woke up and couldn’t feel anything from the waist down,” she says. Her neck and back were broken and her pelvis shattered.
Rehab took most of a year, as she learned such basic tasks as feeding herself. “And then,” she adds, “I started to learn how to walk again.”
Her professional CV still contains the explanation of why her residency took twice as long as normal to complete.
Back on a straight road
Dr. Fillerup’s legacy of those years is some nerve pain and arthritis in her ankle. That’s why she’s abandoned her old pastimes of hiking and cross-country skiing. But, she says, “I can still bicycle pretty well.”
True, indeed. She has joined such events as the 200-miles-plus Lotoja race between Logan and Jackson Hole, Wyo. She’s also a frequent participant in “centuries” — 100-mile races for us non-cyclists. But that’s not so unusual — a century is just the average route of her weekend rides.