Dr. Patricia Bath achieved a series of firsts in her long medical career, the most notable being the first African-American woman doctor to receive a medical patent. Although Dr. Bath faced racism and sexism during her tenure in higher academics, she managed to break through the barriers placed before her. Bath was born in Harlem, N.Y. on November 4, 1942.
Her father was an immigrant from Trinidad, and was reportedly the first Black man to work for the New York City subway system as a motorman. A prodigious student, Bath took an interest in science early on and excelled in high school graduating two years early.
She went on to New York’s Hunter College, graduating in 1964 with a degree in Chemistry. In 1968, Bath graduated from Howard University’s College of Medicine. Back in New York, Bath became interested in eye health after observing that poor minority patients suffered with blindness more than their white counterparts did.
In 1973, she made history by becoming the first Black person to complete a residency in ophthalmology. Two years later, she joined the faculty of UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first woman to do so.
The staff attempted to place her office in a basement, which she refused. Despite that kind of discrimination, this didn’t stop Bath from becoming the first woman to head a residency while at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in 1983. In 1986, Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, a laser-based treatment for cataracts.