Patricia Era Bath
Born November 4, 1942, in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, she 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). Before Bath, no black person had served as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University and no black woman had ever served on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. Bath is the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. The holder of four patents, she also founded the company of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.
Three of Bath’s four patents relate to the Laserphaco Probe. In 2000, she was granted a patent for a method she devised for using ultrasound technology to treat cataracts.
Bath holds four patents in the United States. In 1981, she conceived the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves on the use of lasers to remove cataracts, and “for ablating and removing cataract lenses”. 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. The device — which quickly and nearly painlessly dissolves the cataract with a laser, irrigates and cleans the eye and permits the easy insertion of a new lens — is used internationally to treat the disease. Bath has continued to improve the device and has successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades.