Black History Month Pathfinder Profile: Dr. Patricia Bath

Dr. Patricia Bath was an inventor, laser scientist and innovative researcher. She was the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology. Bath was also the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent when she patented her invention of the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1988. She holds patents for the same in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

Bath earned her bachelor’s degree from Hunter’s College in 1964. She then earned her medical degree from Howard University where she graduated with honors in 1968. During her fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University, Bath developed a community ophthalmology system, which increased the amount of eye care given to underserved populations. Community ophthalmology systems are now operative worldwide

Throughout her career Bath earned the distinction of being a pathfinder and a pioneer. She was the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. After she helped create the Ophthalmology Residency Training program at UCLA-Drew she became the first woman to chair such a program.

In 1977, she worked with three of her colleagues and co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. The AIPB served to protect, preserve, and restore the gift of sight. Dr. Bath encountered racism and sexism on the job, but she was determined not to let it impact her work. Her research was accepted internationally at the Laser Medical Center of Berlin, the Rothschild Eye Institute of Paris, and the Loughborough Institute of Technology in England.

She used her research to create the Laserphaco Probe in 1986. She used her invention to restore sight in people who had been vision impaired for several decades. She also traveled to underdeveloped nations to perform surgeries and further her mission to restore sight around the world.

Dr. Path died in May 2019.

The Ellison for Congress campaign salutes Dr. Patricia Bath for forging a path to improve the field the opthamology.

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