Orthoptist Certification

Vanderbilt Eye Institute is accredited for two orthoptic students per year who meet qualifications and have a baccalaureate degree (BA or BS) before entering the program. Ronald Biernacki, CO, Assistant Professor in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is the program director and Nancy Benegas, M.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is medical director.


The training period is 24 months in duration and includes 200 hours of didactic learning and clinic rotations in our pediatric ophthalmology and neuro-ophthalmology clinics. Orthoptists are physician extenders who work primarily with pediatric ophthalmologists in diagnosing and managing conditions of strabismus (misalignment of the eyes), amblyopia, (lazy eye) and diplopia, (double vision). Courses are taught by VEI faculty and certified orthoptists. To become certified after completion of the program, graduates must pass a national written exam and then sit for oral boards given annually by the American Orthoptic Council (AOC) at different locations in the US. During their second year, the orthoptic students are encouraged to present a scientific talk at a regional orthoptic meeting.


  • Anatomy
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Sensory physiology and pathology
  • Motor physiology
  • Supranuclear control systems for eye movements
  • Pharmacology
  • Ophthalmic optics
  • Determination of refractive status
  • Vision testing
  • Diagnostic Testing
  • Normal and abnormal vision development, amblyopia
  • Esodeviations
  • Exodeviations
  • Vertically incomitant horizontal strabismus (patterns)
  • Oblique dysfunction and dissociated strabismus
  • Paretic strabismus
  • Special forms of strabismus
  • Systemic diseases with ocular motor involvement
  • Nystagmus
  • Ophthalmic disorders
  • Embryology and infant and child development
  • Medical genetics and selected syndromes with eye findings
  • Non- surgical treatment of sensory and motor abnormalities
  • Principles of strabismus surgery

Didactic Structure

  • One-on-one (Orthoptists or faculty to student) daily lectures
  • Resident lectures on pertinent topics
  • Friday Grand Rounds with faculty and residents
  • 30 minutes one on one with preceptor daily to review cases
  • Journal clubs


$7,000 for two years (subject to change), to include books, stipend for travel to regional meeting.

To apply, download the application and return the completed Application for Clinical Fellowship in Orthoptics by mail or as an e-mail attachment to:

ron b
Ronald Biernacki, CO, COMT
Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Vanderbilt Eye Institute
​Orthoptic Program Director
(615) 936-2250
(615)936-2118 fax