Meet This Extraordinary Woman! Inventor of Laser Eye Surgery Dr. Patricia Era Bath.

Dr. Patricia Era Bath born November 4, 1942, Harlem, New York is an American ophthalmologist, inventor and academic. She has broken ground for women and African Americans in a number of areas. Prior to Bath, no woman had served on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, headed a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology or been elected to the honorary staff of the UCLA Medical Center an honor bestowed on her after her retirement.

Bath is the first African American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Her Laserphaco Probe is used to treat cataracts. The holder of four patents, she is also the founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington D.C. Born in Harlem on November 4, 1942, Bath was the daughter of Rupert and Gladys Bath. Her father, an immigrant from Trinidad, was a newspaper columnist, a merchant seaman and the first black man to work for the New York City Subway as a motorman.

Raised in Harlem, Bath was encouraged academically by her parents.Inspired by Albert Schweizer or his work in medicine, Bath applied for and won a National Science Foundation Scholarship while attending Charles Evans Hughes High School; this led her to a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center on cancer that piqued her interest in medicine.

In 1960, still a teenager, Bath won the “Merit Award” of Mademoiselle Magazine for her contribution to the project. After graduating high school early, Bath received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from New York’s Hunter College in 1964. She relocated to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University College of Medicine, from which she received her doctoral degree in 1968. During her time at Howard, she was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the 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.

After completing her education, Bath served briefly as an assistant professor at Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science before becoming the first woman on faculty at the Eye Institute founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, for which she served as president. In 1983, she became the head of a residency in her field at Charles R. Drew, the first woman ever to head such a department

Bath has been honored by two of her universities. Hunter College placed her in its “hall of fame” in 1988 and Howard University declared her a “Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine” in 1993.

She is happily married with children.

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