Patricia Era Bath

Patricia Bath was born to Rupert and Gladys Bath on November 4, 1942. Her father and mother worked hard to provide the children’s education, but times were difficult for blacks in Harlem. Patricia Bath did not let that deter her and achieved many accomplishments.


At Charles Evans Hughes High School, Bath excelled and graduated in only 2 1/2 years. Before graduating, she applied for and won a National Science Foundation Scholarship. This led to a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center connecting cancer, nutrition and stress. The head of the department was impressed with her work and published it in a scientific paper.

Bath received her Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Manhattan’s Hunter College in 1964. She went on to receive her doctoral degree in 1968 from Washington DC’s Howard University College of Medicine. She was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Career and Achievements

Ms. Bath interned at Harlem Hospital Center while serving as a fellow at Columbia University. In 1967, she traveled to Yugoslavia where she realized the poor eye health care for the population. She went on to persuade her professors at Columbia to operate on blind patients at Harlem’s Hospital Center at no cost. This became known as community ophthamology and is run by volunteers world wide.

Becoming the first African-American to do so in this field, Ms. Bath served her residency at New York University from 1970 to 1973. After marrying, she had a daughter in 1972 but still managed her residency and her fellowship.

Ms. Bath served as an assistant professor for a short time at Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. She then became the first woman on faculty at the Eye Institute. She Co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in 1978, and became the first woman to head a residency in her field at Charles R. Drew in 1983. UCLA elected her as the first woman on honorary staff, and she retired from here in 1993.

Ms Bath also served as professor of Ophthamology at Howard University School of Medicine and professor of Telemedicine and Ophthamology at St. Georges University. She helped co-found the ophthamology training program at King-Drew Medical Center, lectured internationally and wrote over 100 papers.

Inventions and Honors

Ms. Bath holds a patent for the Laserphaco Probe which is a device that uses lasers to remove cataracts and for ablating and removing cataract lenses. She holds two other patents relating to this device and one patent for using ultrasound technology to treat cataracts.

As a teenager, Ms Bath won the Merit Award of Madamoiselle Magazine for her contribution to the project she helped research. She was inducted into Hunter College’s Hall of Fame in 1988, and Howard University declared her a “Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine” in 1993.

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