June 2010 cover SCAN - St. Catherine University St. Catherine University
June 2010
 
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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. This program 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 medical director.

Why would someone want to become an orthoptist?
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

 

From the Heart of the Campus

Lisa Rovick
Lisa Rovick, program director