The Eye Opening Patricia Bath
By Ariel Garrett
Huron High School
“Alright Ms. Garrett we are all done! The procedure took me just about 10 minutes, but your results are going to be awesome. The nurse will be in shortly to give you post op instructions and wheel you into recovery. Do you have any question for me?” This is what I can recall from my grandmothers eye surgery to remove her cataract from her left eye 2 years ago. What I did not know at the time was the details of how the device was invented or by whom. Learning about Patricia Bath has been an amazing experience and her story inspires me to look deeper into what accomplishments I will one day be able to achieve.
Patricia Bath (left) was born on the 4th of November 1942 to Rupert and Gladys Bath.
Her family pushed her to achieve her academic goals. Patricia learned about travel and exploring new cultures from her father who was a former Marine. In order to push her to learn more about her scientific interests, her mother brought her a chemistry set. As a result, Patricia worked hard and by age 16, she became one of the first students to attend a cancer research workshop sponsored by the NSF. This was only one of her many firsts to come.
Patricia Bath’s father, Rupert Bath was the first black motorman to work for the New York City subway. Patricia followed in his steps with a long list of firsts. I guess as the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” Ms. Bath graduated high school in just two years. She then continued her education at Hunter University where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She then attended Howard University where she graduated with honors and accepted an internship at Harlem Hospital a short time after. The next year, she began a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbus University.
During her studies, she found that African Americans were two times as likely to suffer from blindness and eight times for likely to develop glaucoma. This lead her to develop a community ophthalmology system to increase eye care for those couldn’t afford it. In the year 1973, she became the first African American to finish residency in ophthalmology.
About a year later, she moved to California to become the assistant professor of surgery at Charles R. Drew University as well as the University of California, Los Angeles. Just two years later, she became the first female faculty member in the Ophthalmology Department at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. In 1988, she become the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent, thus adding to her long list of firsts.
Patricia began working on her famous invention in 1981. After about five years of research and trials, she successfully invented the Laserphaco Probe. This device uses harnessed laser technology to provide a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. She received a patent for this device in 1988. With the help of this device, she was able to help restore sight to people who had been blind for 30 plus years. Five years after this achievement, she retired from UCLA and became an honorary member of its staff.
Patricia Bath is a truly amazing woman. I aspire to leave my mark on the world of medicine as well. I want to create a better technique in skin grafting to prevent and reverse keloids and discoloration. Learning about Ms. Bath has made that goal so much more achievable. African Americans have more to our history than slavery and civil rights leaders. We have accomplished so much despite of our terrible American past. It is our duty to make sure that people like Patricia Bath are not lost in the chaos.
“Eye Surgery of the Time and the Laserphaco Probe.” Stacy Brogan’s WS320 Blog , 3
Aug. 2007, brogans.wordpress.com/dr-patricia-era-bath/eye-surgery-of-the-time-and-the-laser phaco-probe/.
“Patricia Bath.” Biography.com , A&E Networks Television, 19 Jan. 2018,www.biography.com/people/patricia-bath-21038525.