March is the Women’s History Month celebrated globally to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The month corresponds with the International Women’s Day which is marked globally on March 8.
Patricia Bath is a living legend. She holds four medical patents in the United States. Among many firsts, Bath is the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. Her first patent was for the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment which she received a patent for in 1988.
About Bath’s Inventions
Bath’s well-known invention is the Laserphaco Probe. It is a medical device that improves on the use of lasers by quickly and nearly painlessly dissolving cataracts with a laser. The device was completed in 1986 after Bath 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. Bath has continued to improve the device and has successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades, including the sight of an individual who was unable to see for over 30 years.
Bath has three other patents related to the Laserphaco Probe and was granted a fourth patent for a method she devised to use ultrasound technology to treat cataracts. She also holds patents in Japan, Canada and Europe.
Bath was born in Harlem, New York, on November 4, 1942, and was the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology in 1973. She became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute in 1975. A year later, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that “eyesight is a basic human right.”
In 1993, Bath retired from her position at the UCLA Medical Center and became an honorary member of its medical staff. She was named a “Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine” that same year.
Among her many roles in the medical field, Bath is a strong advocate of telemedicine, using technology to provide medical services in remote areas.
Listen to Patricia Bath speak on her fascinating life of overcoming racism and sexism to achieve her historic feats below.