Full Name: Dr. Patricia E. Bath
November 4, 1942 – May 30, 2019
Notable: Ophthalmologist & Inventor
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Dr. Patricia E. Bath was born in Harlem to a Trinidadian father and African-American mother who encouraged her interests and curiosity. Her father had served as a Merchant Marine and shared stories from the places he visited, the people he met, and the cultures he experienced. Her mother encouraged her childhood interest in science by getting her a chemistry set.
In high school, Bath showed immense talent in science and math which resulted in her winning a National Science Foundation Scholarship where she was one of a few students selected to attend a cancer research workshop. She graduated from high school in two years and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hunter College and a medical degree from Howard University. While attending Howard, Bath became involved with the Civil Rights Movement where she organized medical student volunteer services for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.
As an intern at Harlem Hospital Center, Dr. Patricia E. Bath observed a large disparity in the amount of Black blind patients at Harlem Hospital versus White blind patients at the Columbia University Eye Clinic. She utilized a fellowship from Columbia University to conduct research and found that the disparity was a result of lack of access to eye care. Bath developed a new discipline, community ophthalmology, which combined the use of volunteer outreach programs to provide screenings and eye care for underserved communities.
Bath went on to become the first Black person to achieve a residency in ophthalmology as well as the first woman to chair an ophthalmology training program. Despite her successes, Bath still faced sexism and racism which motivated her to work abroad for a period as well as co-founding the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness (AIPB).
During her travels, Bath learned about laser technology and began developing a laser for removing cataracts. The instrument was tested over several years and in 1988 Bath became the first female African-American doctor to receive a patent for a medical instrument.
- Chamberlain, Gaius. “Gaius Chamberlain.” The Black Inventor Online Museum, Gaius Chamberlain Http://Blackinventor.com/Wp-Content/Uploads/2013/04/biomlogo300c.Png, 24 Jan. 2015, blackinventor.com/patricia-bath/.
- “Changing the Face of Medicine | Patricia E. Bath.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 3 June 2015, cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_26.html.
- “Dr. Patricia Bath.” Dr. Patricia Bath: Fight for the Right to Sight, www.black-inventor.com/Dr-Patricia-Bath.asp.
- “Dr. Patricia Bath’s Biography.” The HistoryMakers, www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/dr-patricia-bath.
- “Patricia Bath.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 15 May 2019, www.biography.com/scientist/patricia-bath.
- Quin, and Nita F. Cobbins-Modica. “Patricia Bath (1942-2019 ) • BlackPast.” BlackPast, 6 June 2019, www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/bath-patricia-1942/.
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