As Women's Day approaches on 9th August, it is an opportunity to commemorate the courageous deeds of women in history, as well as to celebrate the contributions made by women in all fields. One such woman is Patricia Bath, a pioneer in ophthalmology.
Born in Harlem, New York, on November 4, 1942, Patricia Bath became the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology in 1973, and to receive a medical patent in 1988.
At the age of 16, Bath became one of only a few students to attend a cancer research workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The program head, Dr. Robert Bernard, was so impressed with Bath's discoveries during the project that he incorporated her findings in a scientific paper he presented at a conference. The publicity surrounding her discoveries earned Bath the Mademoiselle magazine's Merit Award in 1960.
While pursuing a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University, her research led her to the development of a community ophthalmology system, which increased the availability of eye care to those who were unable to afford treatment.
In 1976, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that "eyesight is a basic human right." Its motto is "to protect, preserve, and restore the gift of sight".
In 1981, Bath began working on her most well-known invention: the Laserphaco Probe (1986). Harnessing laser technology, the device created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. She received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. (She also holds patents in Japan, Canada and Europe.) With her Laserphaco Probe, Bath was able to help restore the sight of individuals who had been blind for more than 30 years.
Among her many roles in the medical field, Bath is a strong advocate of telemedicine, which uses technology to provide medical services in remote areas.
When asked in an interview about her most special moments during her career she answered: "The ability to restore sight is the ultimate reward".