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Patricia Bath - Laser Cataract Surgery


Patricia Bath (November 4, 1942 – May 30, 2019) was an American ophthalmologist, inventor, humanitarian, and academic. She was an early pioneer of laser cataract surgery. She also became the first woman member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, first woman to lead a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology, and first woman elected to the honorary staff of the UCLA Medical Center. Bath was the first African-American person to serve as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University. She was also the first African-American woman to serve on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. Bath was the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. The holder of five patents, she also founded the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.


Patricia Bath (November 4, 1942 – May 30, 2019) was born in New York City, New York. Patricia and her brother attended Charles Evans Hughes High School where both students excelled in science and math. Patricia was inspired by her teachers to pursue research. Inspired by Albert Schweitzer's work in medicine, Bath applied for and won a National Science Foundation Scholarship while attending high school; this led her to a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center studying connections between cancer, nutrition, and stress. The head of the research program realized the significance of her findings and published them in a scientific paper. In 1960, still a teenager, Bath won the "Merit Award" of Mademoiselle magazine for her contribution to the project.



In 1986, Bath did research in the laboratory of Danièle Aron-Rosa, a pioneer researcher in lasers and ophthalmology at Rothschilde Eye Institute of Paris, and then at the Laser Medical Center in Berlin, where she was able to begin early studies in laser cataract surgery, including her first experiment with excimer laser photoablation using human eye bank eyes.Bath coined the term "Laser phaco" for the process, short for laser PHotoAblative Cataract surgery, and developed 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.


Bath holds five patents in the United States. Three of Bath's five patents relate to the Laserphaco Probe. In 2000, she was granted a patent for a method for using pulsed ultrasound to remove cataracts, and in 2003 a patent for combining laser and ultrasound to remove cataracts.


Sources:

“Changing the Face of Medicine | Patricia E. Bath.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 3 June 2015, cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_26.html.

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