Patricia Bath
Tech History

Dr. Patricia Bath – Black History Month

Patricia Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor, and academic. Patricia Bath is the first person to invent and demonstrate laserphaco cataract surgery. She was also the first black woman in medicine in the United States to have their own patent.


Raised in Harlem, Bath struggled with sexism, racism, and poverty but she was encouraged academically by her parents. It was obvious that she was a gifted student, and by her high school years, was able to graduate in just two and a half years. She grew up in a predominantly black community where blacks were not accepted into many medical schools, so attending a medical school would be challenging.

Bath received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Hunter College. And later moved to DC to attend Howard University College of Medicine to receive her doctorate, where she was president of the Student National Medical Association and was a fellow with National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Bath interned at Harlem Hospital Center, subsequently serving as a fellow at Columbia University, during that time would become aware of the amount of blind patients coming out of underserved communities. She would later persuade her professors from Columbia to operate on blind patients at Harlem Hospital Center, pioneering “community ophthalmology”, a volunteer-based outreach to bring necessary eye care to underserved populations.

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


Dr. Bath has an incredibly extensive resume: Bath served briefly as an assistant professor at Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, became the first woman on faculty at the Eye Institute, co-founder and president of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, head of a residency in her field at Charles R. Drew, the first woman ever to head such a department and professor of Ophthalmology at Howard University’s School of Medicine and among the co-founders of the King-Drew Medical Center ophthalmology training program. 

Bath has lectured internationally and authored over 100 papers over the years. She holds four patents, three of which relate to her invention of the Laserphaco Probe. 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 and over the years, has cured blindness from people who have not been able to see for decades.



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