POWERING CHANGE: WOMEN IN INNOVATION & CREATIVITY

PATRICIA BATH (b. 1942), Laserphaco Probe, 1988

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Patricia_BathPatricia’s dedication to medicine began as a child when she was inspired by doctor’s working with leprosy sufferers in the Congo. Excelling in her studies, she completed training in 1973 – becoming the first African American resident in ophthalmology.

One of Patricia’s major contributions is a discipline – community ophthalmology. As a young intern, she noticed half the people in Harlem Hospital were blind or visually impaired. However, in Columbia University, there were very few obviously blind patients. She deduced the cause was a lack of access to ophthalmic care and began a new discipline – offering primary care to underserved populations. Her outreach has saved the sight of thousands whose optical challenges would otherwise have been untreated. The discipline continues today.

Patricia was also the first woman faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. As an African-American woman scientist in 1942 meant overcoming barriers. She was not deterred by either the sexism or racism she endured. By 1983 she was Chair of the Ophthalmology residency training program at Drew-UCLA, the first woman in the USA to hold the position.

In 1981 Patricia invented the Laserphaco Probe – a medical device that improved how lasers remove cataracts. The invention has saved the sight of millions of patients around the world. The device was patented in 1988, making her the first African-American woman to receive a patent for a medical innovation.


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