Patricia Era Bath: Klever Articles: Inspirational People

Patricia Era Bath, born November 4, 1942, in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City, is an ophthalmologist, inventor, and humanitarian.

She has broken ground for women and African Americans in several areas.

Before her, no woman had served on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, headed a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology, or been elected to the honorary staff of the UCLA Medical Centre (an honour bestowed on her after her retirement).

Before Patricia Bath, no black person had served as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University and no black woman had ever served on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Centre.

Patricia Bath is the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose.

She is the holder of four patents.

She also founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.

Raised in Harlem, Patricia Bath struggled with sexism, racism, and poverty though she was encouraged academically by her parents.

It was hard for her since there were no black physicians that she knew of while she was growing up.

She grew up in a predominantly black community where blacks were not accepted into many medical schools.

It was also not easy for her to go to medical school since her family did not have the funds for it.

Inspired by Albert Schweitzer’s work in medicine, Patricia 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 Centre on the connection between cancer, nutrition and stress which helped her interest in science shift to medicine. The head of the research program realized the significance of her findings during the research and published them in a scientific paper that he later presented.

In 1960, still a teenager, Patricia Bath won the “Merit Award” of Mademoiselle magazine for contributing to the project.

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.

She interned at Harlem Hospital Centre, subsequently serving as a fellow at Columbia University.

Patricia Bath travelled to Yugoslavia in 1967 to study children’s health which caused her to become aware that the practice of eye care was uneven among racial minorities and poor populations, with a much higher incidence of blindness among her black and poor patients. She determined that, as a physician, she would help address this issue. She persuaded her professors from Columbia to operate on blind patients at Harlem Hospital Center, which had not previously offered eye surgery, at no cost. Patricia Bath pioneered the worldwide “community ophthalmology” discipline, a volunteer-based outreach to bring necessary eye care to underserved populations.

She served her residency in ophthalmology at New York University from 1970 to 1973, the first African American to do so in her field.

She holds four patents in the United States.

In 1981, she conceived the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves the use of lasers to remove cataracts, and “for ablating and removing cataract lenses”. The device was completed in 1986 after she conducted research on lasers in Berlin and patented in 1988, making her the first African-American woman to receive a patent for a medical purpose.

The device, which quickly and nearly painlessly dissolves the cataract with a laser, irrigates and cleans the eye and permits the easy insertion of a new lens, is used internationally to treat the disease.

She has continued to improve the device and has successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades.

Three of Patricia Bath’s four patents relate to the Laserphaco Probe.

In 2000, she was granted a patent for a method she devised for using ultrasound technology to treat cataracts.

Patricia Bath has been honoured by two of her universities. Hunter College placed her in its “Hall of Fame” in 1988 and Howard University declared her a “Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine” in 1993.



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Co-founder of The Klever Magg.
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