Eyes on the Prize
Director of new orthoptics program says graduates will be in demand
For years, it's been an under-the-radar
profession, but demand is growing for
orthoptists. They're allied health professionals who work with ophthalmologists and focus on diagnosing and treating disorders of vision, eye movements and eye alignment.
This fall, St. Catherine's Henrietta
Schmoll School of Health will offer an orthoptics
major — the only one of its kind in the nation. Heading up the program is Lisa
Rovick, a faculty member of
St. Kate's ophthalmic technician program
and a practicing orthoptist since 1988.
The program, which includes an off-site
residency component, will start small, Rovick
says, and have an enrollment cap of 16 students a year.
Who came up with the idea of
offering an orthoptics major
at St. Catherine?
For many years, I worked at
Park Nicollet Clinic with
Richard Freeman, MD, a
respected local pediatric
ophthalmologist. We used
to sit down at lunchtime
and cook up ideas together.
was one of them. Dr.
Freeman was hugely
supportive of our program
and key in getting it
launched at St. Kate's.
He's now the program's
Why would someone want to become an
It is the best job in the universe.
You never get a chance to be bored — ever.
There's an endless variety of patients and situations.
You get to work with young children
and their families and make a huge difference
in their lives. You also get to help older people
who are suffering with double vision. You get
to make patients' lives so much better. The
rewards are very tangible.
Are jobs readily available in this field?
Not enough orthoptists are being produced nationwide.
We have a chronic undersupply.
This program is going to be nationally presented,
which will be a good source for job
opportunities. Students will enroll here and
take their didactic portion here, but they will
do their training and nine-month residency
in a variety of clinics all over the country.
What is the average salary for an orthoptist?
A survey done a few years ago showed
the average orthoptist earned $55,000
to $65,000 a year.
What sort of personality is best
suited to the job?
A perfect orthoptist
isn't introverted, but they are
thoughtful. The job requires an ability
to work directly with patients to figure
out a puzzle and improve their
vision. An orthoptist is a person who
likes both puzzles and people.
— ANDY STEINER