Orthoptist Training Program

Orthoptists are health care professionals working in ophthalmology who specialize in the following:

  • Eye exams for infants, children and adults
  • Diagnostic evaluation and treatment of:
    • Reduced acuity or other visual disturbances
    • Misalignment of the eyes
    • Double vision and/or visual discomfort while reading
  • Actively participate in patient education as liaison between doctor and patient
  • Participate in clinical research, teaching and scientific publications

The UW Orthoptic Program was established in 1977.

On numerous occasions the program and students have received the Scobee National Award for highest achievement. During two intensive years of instruction, orthoptic students interact with department ophthalmologists, medical students, and residents and fellows in ophthalmology. Teaching is carried out by the medical director, Dr. David Gamm, and the orthoptic director, Kali Loberger, CO, as well as other department faculty and orthoptists, who participate in many aspects of the orthoptic student’s educational experience. On average, an orthoptic student will evaluate more than 1,500 patients and observe and discuss many more. Following successful completion of the program, national written and oral exams are part of the American Orthoptic Council certification process.

Orthoptics is a small profession in great demand. There are many more jobs available than orthoptists to fill the vacancies. Salaries are competitive with other allied health professions.

Interested individuals should mail completed applications by March 15th. Applications must include college transcripts, two letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Personal interviews will be set up on an individual basis. Only one student is accepted every two years to begin in July. Applicants should possess an inquisitive scientific nature, the ability to interact well with children and adults, be self-motivated and have a genuine interest in helping others.

Orthoptics Application Form

Program Guidelines and Curriculum

The orthoptic program is 24 months in length. Students accepted in advanced standing will train for a minimum of 12 month; the length of training to be determined by the Program Director.

Clinic hours are 8:00-5:00pm, Monday-Friday. Attendance is required whenever clinic is in session.

Lectures by the program staff are given during clinic hours. Occasional lectures may take place in the evening.

Pediatric Journal Club is held six times throughout the year, generally on a weekday between 6:00-8:00pm. Attendance is required.

The Department of Ophthalmology Grand Rounds are held on Friday mornings from 7:30-8:30am in the University of Wisconsin Health Science Learning Center. Attendance is strongly encouraged, especially when related to pediatric or neuro-ophthalmology.

Two weeks (10 days) or vacation/sick leave is granted per year. Every effort should be made to take vacation when clinic is not in session. It is also important to not come to clinic if you are sick with anything contagious, such as a fever, cough, etc.

Clinic will be closed for 9 holidays each year. These days do not count against the student’s allotted 10 days of leave. Observed holidays include: New Year’s Day, MLK, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

There may be days when clinic is not in session that the student will be asked to attend lectures or review sessions.

Clothing should be comfortable and professional. The University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics maintains a dress code that must be followed. Distracting clothing and jewelry and the use of fragrances is discouraged. (See UW Health Policy and Procedure)

Patient confidentiality is mandatory.

Hospital issued name tags must be worn at all times. Always present yourself in a mature and professional manner.

Didactic material is contained in the American Orthoptic Council’s Syllabus of Orthoptics. Subjects covered include:

  • Ocular and neuroanatomy
  • Sensory and motor physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Optics
  • Vision testing and determination of refractive error
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Strabismus
  • Amblyopia
  • Congenital and systemic disease
  • Nystagmus
  • Embryology and child development


  • 0-6 months: introduction to terminology, ocular anatomy, basic exam techniques, classification of strabismic deviations, history taking, visual acuity testing
  • 6-12 months: direct patient contact, perform basic exams under supervision, advanced lectures in neuroanatomy and physiology, diagnostic techniques and orthoptic therapy
  • 12-18 months: continue advanced lectures, introduction to retinoscopy and refraction, perform complete motility examination with limited supervision
  • 18-24 months: demonstrate ability to perform a complete and accurate motility examination without supervision, appropriate use of measurement and diagnostic techniques, accurate determination of refractive error, formulate diagnosis and treatment plans

Written and oral examinations will be used to test knowledge of didactic materials at the end of each section. Midterm practice exams will be given periodically to assess progress in learning.

Clinical skills are continuously taught through observation and hands-on practice during patient evaluations.

The student is highly encouraged to work on a research project or review paper. If interested, it is important to follow departmental and hospital guidelines regarding IRB approval before collecting any patient information.

The student is highly encouraged to attend at least one regional or national meeting sponsored by the AACO (American Association of Certified Orthoptists) during the two years of training. This is a great opportunity to meet fellow orthoptic students, orthoptists and pediatric ophthalmologists from around the country and begin networking and collaborating. Financial support may be available.

Tuition is $2500/year. (Subject to change) A payment schedule may be discussed.

Not included in price of tuition: Certification board examination fee of $800 to be paid before taking written and oral board examinations (price set by American Orthoptic Council and subject to change).

During first year:

  • Obvious inability to appropriately interact with staff
  • Inability to show progress in understanding of material presented
    • Documented by poor performance on evaluations/examinations
  • Excessive absence from program
  • Violation of patient confidentiality/HIPAA

During second year:

  • Inability to show progress in performing competent patient examinations
  • Failure to demonstrate ability to grasp concepts of material presented
  • Inability to interact appropriately with staff and/or patients
  • Excessive absence from program
  • Violation of patient confidentiality/HIPAA

Orthoptics Application Criteria and Form

Selection Criteria for Orthoptic Program Applicants

All applicants wishing to be considered for the University of Wisconsin Orthoptic Program must meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants must meet all minimum criteria established and currently in force, by the American Orthoptic Council (AOC) including:
    1. Completion of a baccalaureate degree at an accredited college or university
    2. Foreign trained and certified Orthoptists wishing to obtain American Orthoptic Council certification must train for a minimum period of time as determined by the AOC.
  • Applicants must have proficiency of the written and spoken English language. They must be understandable in spoken English to the extent that a non-medical person, i.e. patient, would be able to comprehend their instructions and discussion during an examination. They must have sufficient written English skills to be able to take all examinations in English and write reports (patient and research) in English.
    1. Results of the TOEFL test must be presented if English is not the primary language of the applicant.
    2. Current AOC score guidelines are:
      1. Paper-based exam=500
      2. Internet-based Exam (iBT)=75
      3. Computer-based exam=173
    3. A request to waive the TOEFL requirement may be made based on the discretion of the Program Director.
  • Applicants must have citizenship in the United States or have a valid Green Card such that visa or work permit assistance is not required of the Program.
  • Applicants must have the emotional, physical, and visual ability to perform standard evaluations on patients of all ages and levels of ability/disability. (This may include the need to transfer patients from a wheelchair to an exam chair, interact with patients with developmental disabilities, and be able to see small angles of deviation on cover test). The applicant must demonstrate the ability to have appropriate interactions with the medical and teaching staff.
  • Applicants with an undergraduate degree, who are certified by JCAHPO at the COT or COMT level, may be considered for “advance standing status” in which training may be less than 24 months but at least 12 months to be determined by the Program Director based on student performance and evaluations. Those JCAHPO certified at the COA level, or those certified with experience in related ophthalmic professions may be eligible for advance standing on approval by the American Orthoptic Council (AOC) and at the discretion of the Program Director. Advanced standing applicants will be asked to take a multiple choice test prior to acceptance into the Program to establish their level of basic knowledge regarding ocular motility and strabismus.
  • Applicants who demonstrate a proficiency of, and background in the sciences-anatomy, physiology, psychology (especially child psychology) etc. as reflected by their undergraduate transcripts, are preferred. A GPA of at least 3.0, on the 4.0 scale, is preferred.
  • Applicants with prior experience in ophthalmic related work or education are preferred.
  • Applicants must be willing to attend the Program Monday-Friday. The average Clinic day is from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Occasional Saturday, weekend, or evening attendance may be required to attend Journal club meetings, special workshops or conferences related to the course of study.

Orthoptics Application Form

For additional information, or to obtain an application, please contact:

Kali Loberger, C.O.Pediatric Eye and Adult Strabismus Clinic
2880 University Ave. Madison, WI 53705
(608) 263-6414

Email Kali

For additional information on orthoptics or a listing of other accredited programs, contact:

American Orthoptic Council
3914 Nakoma Road
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 233-5383

Email The AOC