Orthoptics in Poland

Ewa Witowska
A Journey to: Poland by Ewa Witowska

The person responsible for the advent of orthoptics in Poland is Professor Marian Wilczek (1903 - 1967), whose initiative led to the construction of the Eye Hospital in Witkowice near Krakow, just after the end of World War II.  At that time, the hospital was the largest in Poland, and virtually unprecedented on the European scale, ward dealing with strabismus and amblyopia.  Professor Wilczek ran regular courses for orthoptists working at clinics specializing in strabismus and amblyopia. It is thanks to him that the profession of an orthoptist was formally recognized. 

Krystyna Krzystkowa (1924 - 2002) was one of Prof. Wilczek‘s students, and her contribution to the field of orthoptics is invaluable. She was an excellent doctor and a long-standing teacher for many orthoptists, both here and abroad. Through her commitment and passion, she made an indelible mark on international orthoptics.
In 1979, in the 1st Medical Vocational School of Krakow, the first Polish Department of Orthoptics was set up. It has been over 30 years since it started to train orthoptists during full-time two-year studies.  Orthoptists were also trained in other cities, such as Szczecin, Lodz, Warszawa, and Rzeszow.  Presently, however, the school in Krakow is the only one offering this course of education.  Its lecturers are all individuals well-acknowledged in the field of orthoptics: H. Bryg, PhD, D. Piszczek, MA, E. Witowska, MA. 
Learning takes place over the course of four semesters and covers approx. 1250 hours of theoretical and 1230 of practical classes. The basic fields of study are the following: anatomy and physiology, the methodology of orthoptics, ophthalmology, pediatrics, optics, and psychology. Practical training takes place in eye hospitals, orthoptics surgeries, optical outlets, and schools. In order to acquire a diploma in orthoptics, a candidate is required to pass a uniform internal examination.  Unfortunately, at the present moment, this is not recognized as higher education. For that reason, orthoptists often resume their studies in associated medical or liberal arts fields. 
Efforts to create the Polish Association of Orthoptists, which are now underway, should end in success soon. 
Activities aimed at the integration and promotion of orthoptics in Poland continually raise the general awareness of orthoptics‘ existence, and the value of orthoptists as professionals is in constant increase. 
Ewa Witowska, certified orthoptist                                                                                                         www.ortoptyka.pl

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