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by Caleb Jones

The UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association named Brandon Runyon, OD, class of 2013, the 2021 Young Alumnus of the Year.

“I'm very shocked and honored to have been nominated and selected for this award,” Runyon said. “It's humbling to know that my colleagues felt my achievements to be worthy of this kind of recognition. I've always had a desire to push myself to the limits of my knowledge, embrace and effect change, and accept new challenges when the opportunities are presented in the interest of personal and professional growth.

“Additionally, I have always tried to make sure that I dedicate time to give back and serve underserved communities. I think many of those values were instilled upon me during my time as a student through mentors such as Drs. Mark Swanson, Tami Than, Marcella Frazier, and Leo Semes.”

Runyon is the former residency program coordinator and chief of optometry at Chinle Service Unit in Chinle, AZ. Though he transitioned into a new position with Virginia Eye Consultants in Norfolk, VA, in May 2021, Runyon looks back at his time at Chinle Service Unit Optometry fondly.

“The clinic is likely one of the more remote group OD practices in the country, and we were able to retain several of our residents on staff to grow our team and provide very high-quality care in an extremely remote location where recruitment of quality providers can be very challenging,” he said. ”I think that speaks volumes to the satisfaction found in the work.”

As he continues his career, Runyon is hopeful that he can continue to inspire others to fully utilize their education and training in clinical practice.

“I hope to be a resource for implementation and widespread acceptance of ODs into hospital-based eye clinics and emergency departments across the country,” he said. “There is a huge unmet need for eyecare providers in those settings, and OD's have the knowledge and experience to safely handle the vast majority of the care for those patients.”

Runyon plans to continue to lecture and share knowledge at various state and national meetings, and ideally will continue to pursue clinical teaching of students and/or residents.