Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019) lived a life without limits. She was the first Black American to complete an Ophthalmology residency at New York University (1973), first Black American woman appointed to UCLA Medical Center’s surgical staff (1975) and the first woman to lead a post-graduate training program in Ophthalmology. And she was just getting started.
In 1986, she invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment, one of the most important surgical tools in the history of ophthalmology, where she used the Excimer Laser to develop a device and method for minimally invasive cataract surgery. In 1988, Dr. Bath became the first Black woman doctor to receive a medical patent [U.S. Patent No. 4,744,360]. Her illustrious career included being awarded five U.S. patents.
Her method has helped eye surgeons restore or improve vision for millions of patients worldwide. Of the twenty million cataract surgeries performed worldwide annually, Dr. Bath’s Laserphaco technique is used in one million of them. Today, the Laserphaco method is semi- automated by computers, software, and robotics.
In immortalizing Dr. Patricia Bath’s legacy, her daughter, Dr. Eraka Bath, Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, is leading the charge to get her mother inducted – posthumously – into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), an organization that recognizes the enduring legacies of exceptional U.S. patent holders. “My mother’s invention is as significant to the laser cataract surgery industry as Bell’s telephone is to the telecommunications industry and Edison’s light bulb is to the electric lighting industry. Being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame would be an amazing honor.”
The call for nominations for consideration in the NIHF’s newest Class of Inductees is open to the public now. If inducted, Dr. Patricia Bath would be the only Black woman in the NIHF out of its 603 inventors.
Among her many groundbreaking achievements, Dr. Bath was also the first to document that Blacks suffered blindness disproportionately to other racial groups. In 1976 she co-founded the American Institute for Prevention of Blindness to address vision inequities.
News Source and Photo Credits: Dr. Patricia Bath