Foundation selects Libby McRae for the Robert M. Leadon Excellence in Teaching Award

The Yakima Valley College Foundation today announces the selection of Surgical Technology Instructor Libby McRae as the 2023 recipient of the Robert M. Leadon Excellence in Teaching Award. The award was established by Velekanje Law Firm in memory of Robert M. Leadon, a foundation director who died in 1986. It recognizes faculty who, like Leadon, are well known for their commitment to excellence in teaching. The YVC Foundation Board of Directors makes the selection from nominations submitted by students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni.

After graduating from Davis High School, McRae dreamed of becoming a vascular surgeon. She earned her associate degree from YVC and enrolled in the United States Army to help her cover the costs of medical school. While in the Army, she got her first experience in an operating room and decided to switch gears to surgical education.

“I fell in love with the field of surgery,” said McRae. “People come in with a problem and you get to do something right away to solve their problem and help them. It is a field where you never stop learning. There is always new technology, a new procedure or a new approach to the same procedure. I’m constantly learning and love the now of it.”

After working as a surgical technologist in the operating room at MultiCare Yakima Memorial Hospital (formerly Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital) for several years, McRae joined YVC as instructor and program coordinator for YVC’s new Surgical Technology program in 2005. As a certified surgical technologist and fellow of the Association of Surgical Technology, McRae also continued to work in the operating room at MultiCare Yakima Memorial Hospital — staying up to date on her craft — until earlier this year. 

“I wanted to be involved in the profession in a different way,” said McRae. “I still love being a surgical technologist. I love helping people be able to do it. It’s more fulfilling for me to help teach the next generation of surgical technologists than to simply do it myself.”

In addition to her work inside the classroom, McRae has also made an impact with colleagues across campus.

According to fellow instructor Claire Carpenter, McRae has helped prepare four different case studies intended to benefit both surgical technology and biology students — helping students from both programs see the applications of what they are learning in their respective programs. Committed to lifelong learning, McRae also helped arrange for Carpenter to observe several surgeries, allowing her to bring a deeper understanding into her biology courses.

As part of her teaching, McRae also helps arrange clinical rotations for all YVC surgical technology students.

“Organizing those clinical rounds is a major logistical challenge that Libby succeeds at every year,” said Carpenter. “She must also counsel her students on how to respond when actual practice departs from academic standards. I have been inspired by her handling of students who fail to show appropriate levels of professionalism — the example she set has helped guide my handling in similar situations.”

She was also instrumental in working with college administrators, faculty and architects to help design and develop YVC’s new Allied Health Building which opened for instruction in Fall 2021. She also played a significant role in helping with the guided pathway advising initiative and serves on several campus-wide committees.

Beyond YVC, McRae is very involved in the surgical technology profession at both the state and national level. She currently serves on the executive board for the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting as treasurer. She is also chair of the Foundation of Surgical Technology — an organization that provides student scholarships, military scholarships, medical missions and awards.

Past involvement includes serving for the state Association of Surgical Technologists in every board position, including president. She recently completed a tenure as chair of the revision panel for the national core curriculum for surgical technology, which is required for all programs nationwide. This work allowed her to help write the guidelines for best practices for the whole profession, something McRae says has made her a better educator and ensures that YVC’s students are trained in current best practices. McRae also recently completed her sixth year on the National Education and Professional Standards Committee, three of those as chair.

Despite all her professional involvement, her focus and passion are teaching students to serve the Yakima Valley community as future health care professionals.

“This is who I am. Not something I do,” says McRae. “Being able to watch the evolution of the student — from never working in the field of healthcare to being able to go into a surgery and know what the surgeon needs before they ask for it — is amazing.”

The Robert M. Leadon Teaching Award is a $1,000 unrestricted monetary award. It is open to any full-time faculty member who has completed three full years of teaching at Yakima Valley College. For more information contact Stacey Kautz at or 509.574.4645.

The Robert M. Leadon Teaching Award will be presented during YVC’s Commencement ceremony on June 16.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /