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BLKISH Forums African-American Inventors and Scientists Laser Cataract Surgery | Patricia Bath (Ophthalmologist & Inventor)

  • Laser Cataract Surgery | Patricia Bath (Ophthalmologist & Inventor)


    November 1, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Patriciabath.jpg Era 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 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,[1] she also founded the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.

    Humanitarian work

    Bath’s main humanitarian efforts can be seen through her work at The American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. Co-founded in 1976 with Alfred Cannon, an American psychiatrist and community organizer, and Aaron Ifekwunigwe, a Nigerian-born pediatrician and human rights advocate, this organization had been created on the principle that “eyesight was a basic human right.” Through this organization, Bath was able to spread eye care throughout the globe by providing newborns with free eye drops, vitamins for malnourishment, and vaccinations against diseases that can cause blindness, like measles. Bath was able to spend her time as director traveling the world performing surgeries, teaching and lecturing at colleges. [25][26] Bath claims her “personal best moment” was while she was in North Africa and using keratoprosthesis, was able to restore the sight of a woman who been blind for over 30 years.[27]

    Through this organization, Bath traveled to Tanzania in 2005, where cataracts had become the lead cause of childhood blindness during this time.[28] In Africa, the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness provided computers and other digital resources for visually impaired students, specifically at the Mwereni School for the Blind in Tanzania and St. Oda School for the Visually Impaired in Kenya. [26]

    Bath was also recognized for her philanthropic work in the field of ophthalmology by President Barack Obama. In 2009, she was on stage with President Obama and was put on his commission for digital accessibility to blind children. [29]

    In April 2019, Bath testified in a hearing called the “Trailblazers and Lost Einsteins: Women Inventors and the Future of American Innovation” at the Senate Office Building in Washington D.C., where Bath had shown the gender disparities in the STEM field and lack of female inventors[30].


    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,[31] 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.[31]

    Bath coined the term “Laser phaco” for the process, short for laser PHotoAblative Cataract surgery,[32] 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,[33] making her the first African-American woman to receive a patent for a medical purpose.[7] 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.[3][2][4] Bath has continued to improve the device and has successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades.[15][34]

    Bath holds five patents in the United States.[1] Three of Bath’s five patents relate to the Laserphaco Probe.[15] In 2000, she was granted a patent for a method for using pulsed ultrasound to remove cataracts,[4] and in 2003 a patent for combining laser and ultrasound to remove cataracts.

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