Dr. Patricia Bath
Once upon a time, in New York, in America, there lived a girl called Patricia who loved doing anything boys could do and was very curious. She lived in a poor area of the city, where children didn’t often continue at school, and girls in particular didn’t dream about professional careers.
When she was eight years old, she was given a toy chemistry set by her mum, Gladys. She loved it, and this was the start of her interest in science. She was curious about the World around her and how things were made, and her parents encouraged her to follow her dreams and value her education.
When she was a bit older and wanted to go to high school, Patricia had to travel on the subway every day to get to school, because all the schools near her house were either for boys or for rich white families.
But Patricia did brilliantly. She earned awards, honours and recognition, finally being offered a place at a college, where she studied chemistry.
She later moved to Washington DC to study medicine. But because was female, she was often banned from sitting on the front row during class. But even through all this, Patricia stayed positive.
But Patricia did brilliantly. She earned awards, honours and recognitions, finally being offered a place at a college, where she studied chemistry.
This was where Patricia met a very important role model, Dr Lois A. Young, one of the first African American female ophthalmologists (eye doctors) in the country. Patricia was inspired and went on to specialise in the eye and vision.
While working in the hospital, Patricia noticed that more of the patients she was treating were black, double the number of white patients. She thought this was because people couldn’t access doctors and hospitals to help care for their eyes, so she set up community ophthalmology which tried to lower the rate of blindness in poorer and disadvantaged areas.
Patricia had many successes in her career, becoming the first woman in the United States to be head of an ophthalmology training program, co-founding the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness and later inventing what was to become known as the Laserphaco Probe, a device to remove cataracts from the eye using a better method.
She started working on the Laserphaco Probe in 1981, later travelling to Europe and spending time working on the probe in Paris, France and then at the Free University of Berlin in Germany. Here she was able to use some of the best laser equipment in the world and Patricia finally completed her invention in 1986 at the university’s Laser Medical Centre.
Patricia continued to work back at UCLA in America until she retired in 1993, continuing the fight for everyone to have to right to sight.
Dr Patricia Bath died in 2019 at the age of 76.