Doctor Patricia Bath was born November 4, 1942 in Harlem, NYC and went on to become one of the leading eye surgeons in the US. She would develop in the 1980's a patented technology used globally to restore vision to people who in some cases had been blind for decades.
Dr. Bath's parents were Rupert and Gladys Bath. Her mother, of African American roots, was a homemaker who raised her children until they were old enough for school, and then went to earn money through housekeeping. With a deep love of books, her mother encouraged her daughter endlessly. Dr. Bath remembers playing with a microscope bought at Macy's - fitting as she would go to develop her own medical devices! Her father was the first black man to conduct the subway cars for the NYC subway system, was a newspaper columnist, and a merchant seaman helping transport cargo all over the world on large boats.
Patricia Bath was an excellent student, graduating high school early, then graduated Hunter College with a Chemistry Degree in 1964. It was then onto Howard University for Medical School where a soon to be Dr. Bath was President of the Student National Medical Association and won Fellowships from the NIH, National Institutes of Health, among others. After Medical School, she interned back home at Harlem Hospital and served as a Fellow at Columbia. It was there between 1968 - 1970 that her concept of Community Ophthalmology took shape. Harlem Hospital did not have eye surgery as an option for patients back then. She studied the situation, and was able to prov that Blacks were twice as likely to suffer from blindness simply due to poor medical options, and in general suffered, more severe eye problems than the white patients just a few blocks away at Columbia. This was unacceptable. So, Dr. Bath spoke to the professors at Columbia and together they performed the first eye surgeries on patients at Harlem Hospital, for free.
Dr. Bath became very in demand as a lead eye surgeon and professor. She was soon to radically change surgery as well. In 1981, lasers were still fairly new medically. Cataracts, the build up on eyes that happens to us as we age, were still removed by traditional surgery. Dr. Bath was determined to find more comfortable, better ways to operate and restore vision. She traveled to Germany with her daughter, and studied the latest technologies there. Upon returning the the US, Dr. Bath built models, practiced, and worked on perfecting the method and medical devices she created. On May 17th, 1988, Dr. Bath was awarded a US patent for her device, the Laserphaco probe, which allowed lasers to be finessed for delicate eye surgery, becoming the first African-American female to receive a patent for a medical device - her first of four US Patents. Dr. Bath also received patents in Japan, across Europe and in Canada.
Dr. Bath has lead departments and research centers in the US, being the first African-American to do so in many cases. She has lectured all over the world, authored over 100 medical papers, and founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, and served as the White House Council for National and International Blindness Prevention. All of this and doing what she loved, and helping people all over the world.