Patricia Bath

Barbara Walters
January 3, 2017
Nadia Comăneci
Nadia Comăneci
December 14, 2016

Patricia Bath

Patricia Bath - Opening America's Eyes

Patricia Bath ophthalmologist, inventor ,and academic
Patricia Bath
American ophthalmologist


United States




Patricia Era Bath is an American ophthalmologist known for her significant contribution to her professional field. She invented the Laserphaco Probe and founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.

Early Years

Patricia Bath was born in New York City in November 1942, to Rupert and Gladys Bath. Raised in Harlem, Manhattan, she struggled through poverty, racism and sexism. It became clear that Bath was academically gifted at an early age and her parents and teachers supported her academic progress. Despite the encouragement, Bath was still faced with the issues that came with being an African American woman during that time. Not many black people were accepted into medical schools, and even if she was accepted, Bath’s family would not be able to afford it.

Triumph against the Odds

Despite the odds stacked against her, Bath managed to win a National Science Foundation Scholarship. She graduated from Hunter College in Manhattan with a BA in chemistry in 1964 and went on to receive her doctorate from Howard University College of Medicine in 1968.

Developing a Passion for Fairness in Eye Care

After travelling to Yugoslavia in 1967 Bath became aware that poverty stricken populations and racial minorities had a higher incidence rate of blindness, and that eye care was not evenly distributed. Bath became determined to do something about these issues and managed to convince professors from Columbia to start operating on blind people at no cost. She single handedly developed an international discipline of ‘community ophthalmology’ – an initiative aimed at bringing eye care to the under-served.

Accolades and Honors

  • Placed in the ‘Hall of Fame’ of Hunter College in 1988
  • Declared as ‘Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine in 1993
  • First woman to serve as staff member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute
  • Elected as honorary staff member of UCLA Medical Center
  • First African American to serve as ophthalmology resident at New York University
  • First African American woman to serve as surgeon at UCLA Medical Center
  • Won the Mademoiselle magazine ‘Merit Award’ for her contribution to a project researching the link between cancer, nutrition and stress while she was still a teenager.


Patricia Bath invented a medical device that vastly improves the process of laser ablating and the removal of cataracts. The device is called the Laserphaco Probe and its function is to quickly and relatively painlessly dissolve cataracts with laser beams while also irrigating and cleaning the eye to allow a new lens to be easily inserted. The initial work on the Laserphaco Probe was completed in 1986 after Bath spent time in Germany conducting research on lasers. It was patented in 1988 and made Bath the first African/American female to receive a medical patent. She continued to improve the device and through her efforts has restored sight for people who have not been able to see for decades. Bath has four registered patents in the United States, three of which are related to the Laserphaco Probe. She was also granted a patent in 2000 for an ultrasound technology method used to treat cataracts.


  • President of the Student National Medical Association during her studies at the Howard University College of Medicine
  • Received fellowships from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Health
  • Lectured across the globe and wrote more than 100 papers