Hymes Named Executive Director, Brauns Named Associate Exec Director of American Optometric Association

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Jon Hymes (l) and Renee Brauns

WASHINGTON, D.C. and ST. Louis, Mo.—The board of trustees of the American Optometric Association (AOA) has named Jon Hymes as executive director, according to David A. Cockrell, OD, AOA president and member of the special committee that led a nationwide executive search.

“Jon Hymes is the staff leader our AOA needs to help us meet the opportunities and challenges facing our profession,” said Cockrell. “For 10 years, the AOA Board, state associations, volunteers, members and staff have worked with Jon day and night to advance the cause of optometry and strengthen the AOA. With Jon Hymes as our executive director, our AOA will be an even stronger and more impactful organization.”

"I am honored to have been selected as the AOA's new executive director," said Hymes. "I want to thank the search committee and the board for expressing their confidence in me as well as our doctors from across the country whose commitment to the practice and profession of optometry inspires every AOA staff person every day.”

Hymes has immediately appointed Renee Brauns, the AOA’s chief operating officer since 2010, to the newly created position of associate executive director. The appointments are effective today.

Cockrell added, "Jon Hymes and Renee Brauns are nationally recognized association executives who have served our AOA and our profession with distinction, and now will be doing even more for us. Their detailed knowledge of the organization, proven leadership and unique understanding of optometry's essential and expanding role in health care will help the AOA and our state associations ensure that we continue to position our members to thrive and succeed."

Hymes succeeds Barry J. Barresi, OD, PhD, executive director from 2007 through 2013, who left to join Ocuhub, a subsidiary of TearLab Corporation, as previously reported. The AOA initiated a nationwide executive search this past spring and assessed the qualifications of more than 100 applicants for its top staff position in a process conducted by St. Louis-based Grant, Cooper and Associates, the AOA said.

“After a thorough search and an exhaustive evaluation process, the AOA Board has unanimously selected Jon Hymes to lead our staff and help us do even more to serve our members, strengthen our organization and advance our profession,” said Steven A. Loomis, OD, AOA president-elect and member of the search committee. “The selection of Jon Hymes and the elevation of Renee Brauns affirm the AOA’s unwavering commitment to our advocacy mission, the cause of optometry and the practices of member doctors.”

Hymes has served as AOA’s interim executive director since February. For the preceding nine years, he managed the organization's Washington, D.C. office, the base of operations for its widely recognized federal, state and third-party advocacy teams. He will continue to be based there.

Brauns, the interim deputy executive director this year, joined the AOA in 1999 and has overseen St. Louis operations as chief operating officer since 2010.

Jon Hymes joined the AOA in 2005 as Washington Office director and has been the organization's lead advocacy strategist through a period of significant activity in health care policy and notable legislative and regulatory wins for optometry. In 2012, the AOA was recognized in a survey of Washington, D.C. insiders for having one of the most effective and respected advocacy operations in the nation's capital. At the 2013 AOA House of Delegates meeting, Jon accepted an award on behalf of his staff colleagues presented by the Southern Caucus that cited the AOA's advocacy achievements.

Previously, Hymes spent a decade on Capitol Hill as a Congressional chief of staff and legislative and communications aide. For five years, he advised Rep. Norman Lent of New York, then the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the U.S. House panel with wide-ranging jurisdiction over health care policy. He is a graduate of Syracuse University.

A 15 year veteran of the AOA, Renee Brauns has advanced beyond her initial role with the Corporate Industry Relations Center to lead the development and implementation of successful organization-wide initiatives aimed at enhancing member services, resources, and benefits.

In 2013, Brauns was honored by Vision Monday as one of the Most Influential Women in the optical industry for guiding the AOA forward, offering inspired leadership and achieving the highest levels of performance. An Illinois native, she holds a degree in business management from Greenville College and is known by her staff colleagues and AOA’s volunteers for her dedication to the mission of enhancing and advancing the profession of optometry to better meet the eyecare needs of the public.