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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Woman of the Week – Patricia Bath

Posted April 03, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24
Pathfinder Tags: Woman of the week wow

Patricia Era Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor, and academic. She has made strides for both women and African Americans in numerous areas.

She’s been the first to do a lot of things, and the list is quite impressive. Previously, 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, before her. 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.

She was born November 4, 1942 in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. Her father, an immigrant from Trinidad, was a newspaper columnist, a merchant seaman, and the first black man to work for the New York City Subway as a motorman. Her father inspired her love for culture and encouraged her to explore different cultures. Her mother, a descendant from African slaves, decided to be a homemaker while her children were young, then later became a housekeeper to help fund for her children's educations.

The family lived in Harlem during Bath’s childhood, and despite struggles with poverty, racism, and sexism, her parents always encouraged her to explore her strengths in school. They quickly noticed she was gifted in science and math, as well as other subjects. One of her favorite gifts she was given as a microscope, as it helped her explore her interests further. Bath attended Charles Evans Hughes High School where she excelled at such a rapid pace causing her to get a diploma in just two and a half years. The school is in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, one of her only choices for schooling as there were no high schools in Harlem at the time.

Her family did not have the money to send her to medical school, but she knew she wanted to continue her education, so she applied for a National Science Foundation Scholarship while attending high school. She earned the scholarship and this led her to a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center on connection between cancer, nutrition, and stress which helped her interest in science shift to medicine – which was pivotal in her career.

Bath received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Hunter College in 1964. She moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University College of Medicine, from which she received her doctoral degree in 1968. During her time there, she was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.

She interned at Harlem Hospital Center, and then served as a fellow at Columbia University. Bath traveled to Yugoslavia in 1967 to study children's health which caused her to become aware that the practice of eye care was uneven among racial minorities and poor populations, with much higher incidence of blindness among her black and poor patients. She determined that, as a physician, she would help address this issue. She persuaded her professors from Columbia to operate on blind patients at Harlem Hospital Center, which had not previously offered eye surgery, at no cost. Bath pioneered the worldwide discipline of "community ophthalmology,” a volunteer-based outreach to bring necessary eye care to underserved populations. She saw the need for his service in these communities, and made it her mission to make this possible.


She served her residency in ophthalmology at New York University from 1970 to 1973, the first African American to do so in this field.

After her schooling, Bath served briefly as an assistant professor at Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science before becoming the first woman on faculty at the Eye Institute. In 1978, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, where she served as president. In 1983, she became the head of a residency in her field at Charles R. Drew, the first woman ever to head such a department. In 1993, she retired from UCLA, which subsequently elected her the first woman on its honorary staff.

She served as a professor of Ophthalmology at Howard University's School of Medicine and as a professor of Telemedicine and Ophthalmology at St. Georges University. She was among the co-founders of the King-Drew Medical Center ophthalmology training program as well.

Bath has lectured internationally and authored over 100 papers; she also holds four medical 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. The device was completed in 1986 after Bath conducted research on lasers in Berlin and patented in 1988, making her the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. The device is used internationally to treat the disease, and it’s often what she is most known for. She was able to use the device to restore sight to many.

Today, she is 74 years old and is retired from her work. However, remains a strong advocate for the medical world, women’s rights, and African American rights.



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Re: Woman of the Week – Patricia Bath

04/04/2017 11:09 AM

Recognizing someone's accomplishments is great and well deserved.

I just don't agree with this pigeon holing....

"She has made strides for both women and African Americans in numerous areas."

Tell it like it is,... she fought racism, REAL RACISM, the political BS your hearing from the left.

As well and the male Chauvinism she had to over come.

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