Tremendous opportunity

A recent Ivy Tech Community College Columbus graduate is now working at one of the nation’s premier hospitals.

Rebecca Willard, formerly of Nineveh, is a surgical technologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She accepted the position in July — the same month she graduated with an associate degree from Ivy Tech.

The Mayo Clinic was ranked as the No. 1 hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The clinic received top rankings in eight specialties — from diabetes to neurology, second in three specialties and third in cancer.

Willard, 33, joined the cardiology and heart surgery team — one of the second-place specialties. As a surgical technologist, she sets up and creates a sterile environment for surgical procedures. She also aids surgeons by anticipating their needs and providing them with sutures and other instruments they need during procedures.

“It’s the chance of a lifetime to work for a world-renowned organization,” Willard said.

Every surgeon has different preferences, she said, and learning and remembering all of them has been her biggest challenge to date.

“Working at the clinic has been great,” Willard said. “I never had much opportunity to experience cardiac surgery when in my clinical setting through school so this is all new to me. I am adjusting to the new job as well as can be expected for a new graduate.”

She added that she looks forward to positively impacting patients’ lives by aiding in their surgeries — both simple and complex.

That desire to help patients and advance her career were the two factors that drove her to seek a higher education. Ivy Tech offered the program she was looking for and provided the flexibility that would allow her to pursue her education and continue working at the same time.

At school, she stood out enough to Susan Sheets, chair of the Ivy Tech Columbus Surgical Technology program, to receive the Most Improved Student award. This award, created by Sheets, recognized Willard for her hard work and determination.

Willard came upon the Mayo Clinic opportunity in June when she met a representative at the Association of Surgical Technologist’s National Conference in San Diego. That sparked the interest to pursue the position, but Willard said that as a world renowned hospital her interest in the Mayo Clinic already existed.

Willard said her future goals involve gaining experience in her position and increasing her speed so that she can excel at what she does.

Rebecca Willard

Age: 33.

Former city of residence: Nineveh.

Current city of residence: Rochester, Minnesota.

College: Ivy Tech Community College Columbus, earned associate degree in surgical technology in July.

Other certification: Certified surgical technologist by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.

Hobbies/Interests: Reading, attending country concerts, bicycling, hiking, swimming, spending time with friends and family and traveling.

Author photo
Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5633.