Dr. Patricia Bath is the first African-American female doctor in U.S. history to receive a patent for a medical invention, but in actuality. In 1986, she invented the Laserphaco Probe which helps treat patients with cataracts in their eyes.
Her invention is a device that uses laser technology to create a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. It helps to restore the sight of individuals who have been blind for up to 30 years. The device actually has 4 patents altogether – all owned by her!
Before inventing the Laserphaco Probe, in 1973, Dr. Bath became the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology. According to Biography.com, she moved to California the following year to work as an assistant professor of surgery at both Charles R. Drew University and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1975, she became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute.
In 1976, Dr. Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that “eyesight is a basic human right.” By 1983, Bath had helped create the Ophthalmology Residency Training program at UCLA-Drew, which she also chaired – becoming, in addition to her other firsts, the first woman in the nation to hold such a position.
Patricia Bath was born in 1942 in Harlem, NYC. She was raised there her entire life by her parents, Rupert Bath, an immigrant from Trinidad, and Gladys Bath, who was half-African and half Cherokee Native American. Both her parents and her teachers saw early on how gifted Patricia was, and encouraged her to excel academically.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Manhattan’s Hunter College in 1964. She relocated to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University College of Medicine, from which she received her doctoral degree in 1968. During her time at Howard, she was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.
What is she working on now?
Well, now Dr. Patricia Bath is 74 years old. She retired in 1993 from her position at the UCLA Medical Center and became an honorary member of its medical staff. That same year, she was named a “Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine.”
But she is still well-remembered for her contributions in the world of science and medicine!