Black History Month Patricia Bath, Ophthalmologist

Black History Month Patricia Bath, Ophthalmologist


Ophthalmologist Patricia Bath, MD, (November 4, 1942 – May 30, 2019)  whose name you may already know well. Dr. Bath is most well known as the inventor of laser cataract surgery. But that one invention, as major as it is, isn’t Dr. Bath’s only milestone. Dr. Bath was also: the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology, the first female faculty member in the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute’s Department of Ophthalmology, the first U.S. woman to serve as chair of an ophthalmology residency training program and the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention. She also co-founded the  American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.

Based on her observations at Harlem Hospital, Bath published the first scientific paper showing the higher prevalence of blindness among Black people. Bath also found that African American people had eight times higher prevalence of glaucoma as a cause of blindness. 

Bath holds five patents in the United States. Three of Bath's five patents relate to the Laserphaco Probe. In 2000, she was granted a patent for a method for using pulsed ultrasound to remove cataracts, and in 2003 a patent for combining laser and ultrasound to remove cataracts.

List of U.S. patents

Born 1942, in Harlem, New York, Patricia Bath was the daughter of Rupert and Gladys Bath. Her father was an immigrant from Trinidad, a newspaper columnist, a merchant seaman and the first black man to work for the New York City Subway as a motorman. Her father inspired her love for culture and encouraged her to explore different cultures. Her mother was descended from African slaves and Cherokee Native Americans. Throughout her childhood, Bath was often told by her parents to "never settle for less than [her] best" and had been encouraged by their support of her education.

Bath applied for and won a National Science Foundation Scholarship while attending high school; this led her to a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center studying connections between cancer, nutrition, and stress. An American hero in the eyewear industry. 

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