January 13, 2011

Orthoptic training program created

Orthoptic training program created

The Vanderbilt Eye Institute is accepting applications for its new orthoptic training program scheduled to begin in July.

Orthoptists evaluate and treat patients with eye movement disorders. Vanderbilt is one of fewer than a dozen schools in the nation to offer such a program.

Ron Biernacki, CO, associate in Ophthalmology, one of four certified orthoptists at Vanderbilt, will serve as the program director.

“Because our field is so small, there is an extreme need for orthoptists,” said Biernacki, who has been at Vanderbilt for 11 years.

“The American Orthoptic Council (AOC) has been after me for years to start a school. The application process is very long, but we have put together the course load and have faculty members and other orthoptists assigned for teaching.

“It's a much needed addition,” he said. “We have all embraced the program and are excited about it.”

Biernacki said Vanderbilt has been accredited for two students per year. Qualified applicants must have a baccalaureate degree before entering the two-year program.

Certification will require that candidates pass both a written and practical exam given by the AOC.

Orthoptists work largely with pediatric ophthalmologists, with a focus on strabismus and assessments for visual acuity and binocular function.

Nancy Benegas, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, will serve as the medical director of the program.

For more information or to apply to the program, go to http://www.orthoptics.org.