In celebration of Black History Month 2021, SoCal Eye would like to honor Patricia Bath, a pioneer of modern Ophthalmology who did so much to battle blindness and developed laser technology that redefined cataract surgery in the 21st Century. Dr Bath was an inspiring American ophthalmologist, inventor, humanitarian, and academic.
Born in 1942 in Harlem, NY, Patricia Bath returned to her hometown after graduating from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington DC and developed a program at Harlem Hospital to bring cataract surgical capabilities to the underserved Harlem Community. She completed a Corneal Fellowship at Columbia University and moved west to Los Angeles to join the prestigious UCLA Jules Stein Eye as the first woman faculty member. She was later appointed assistant chief of the King-Drew-UCLA Ophthalmology Residency Program in 1974, and was appointed chief in 1983
Based on her research, Dr. Bath pioneered “community ophthalmology” in 1976. This was a new discipline in ophthalmology, promoting eye health and blindness prevention by utilizing methodologies of public health, community medicine and ophthalmology to bring necessary eye care to under-served populations both in the United States and in Third World Countries. Many communities have seen dramatic reductions in blindness as a result of her work.
Laser Phaco Invention
Dr Bath was a prolific inventor and received 5 patents throughout her career on new technology to enhance the effectiveness and patient experience associated with cataract surgery. Bath is recognized for developing the first Laserphaco Probe, a 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. Today this technique is used internationally to remove cataracts and has restored the sight of thousands of patients worldwide. Bath’s contributions changed the field of ophthalmology.
Dr Patricia Bath died in May 2019 but her research, inventions and community programs live on and continue to enhance the lives of many patients and communities worldwide. SoCal Eye doctors have been practicing Cataract Surgery in Long Beach since 1964 and continue to use surgical techniques that were inspired by Dr. Bath.