February 6, 2023

Black Entrepreneur History

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Patricia Era Bath – Doctor and Inventor of Method For Removing Cataract Lenses

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American woman named Patricia Era Bath who became not only a Doctor of Ophthalmology but an inventor, creating an apparatus and method for removing cataract/cataractous lenses which today helps patients around the globe.


A New Yorker at birth (November 4, 1942), Patricia Era Bath grew up with a strong draw to science. In high school, she chose cancer research at Harlem Hospital for her summer program, studying the antibiotic streptomycin[2].

She went on to become the very first American to ever perform Excimer laser surgery on the cornea. She is a world renowned for her efforts to prevent people from going blind and improve the delivery of eye care, with lectures spanning as far as Peking, China to Lagos, Nigeria[1].

Dr. Bath earned her B.A. after graduating from New York’s Hunter College where she was the youngest winner of the 1960 Merit Award from Madamoiselle magazine at the age of 18. She then went on to earn her M.D. from the esteemed, historically Black institution – Howard University – and also in Washington D.C. Her residencies include N. YU and Columbia University[1]. She was also chief of Ophthalmology and Director of Residency Training at King/Drew Medical Center in LA while also being White House Consultant for the National and International programs for the prevention of blindness.

She became a professor and trained many medical students in the practice of eye care[1] before becoming “laser focused” on the techniques that brought about her invention that forever changed cataract eye surgery across the globe.

Dr. Patricia Bath’s Inventions

This President and co-founder of American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness has a total of five patents for her inventions, ranging from the years 1988 to 2003. They include:

  • apparatus and methods for ablating and removing cataract lenses
  • surgery of cataractous lenses
  • pulsed ultrasound method for fragmenting/emulsifying and removing cataractous lenses
  • combination ultrasound and laser method and apparatus for removing cataract lenses

She cofounded AiPB along with other Black doctors – Dr. J. Alfred Cannon MD, MPH and Dr. Aaron Ifekwonigwe MD, MPH, FRCP, all of which have now passed away.

Dr. Patricia Bath’s Death

Dr. Patricia Era Bath passed away on May 30, 2019 after leaving the medical community and the world with a better chance at sight as they age through her work in eyecare across the globe. She received numerous awards and honors while she was alive and after her death, one of them being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. She is one of only two Black women to be inducted, the other being Marian Rogers Croak who is the Vice President of Engineering at Google.


Sources

  1. The Atlanta Voice (Atlanta, Georgia)07 Feb 1987, Sat Page 3
  2. Johnson City Press (Johnson City, Tennessee)01 Jan 1961, Sun Page 16