Perspective

Laserphaco probe inventor Patricia Bath, MD, dies

Patricia Bath

Patricia Bath, MD, the inventor of the Laserphaco probe and the first black female doctor to patent a medical invention, died from complications from cancer May 30 at the age of 76, according to a Washington Post obituary.

A graduate of Hunter College and Howard University College of Medicine, Bath was the first female ophthalmology faculty member at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“We are saddened to learn of the death of our former colleague, Dr. Patricia Bath,” Bartly Mondino, MD, director of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute and department chair of ophthalmology in the medical school, said in a press release from UCLA. “Dr. Bath was an influential trailblazer for women and minorities in the field of ophthalmology. She will be missed.”

Bath held five patents and was the co-founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. The nonprofit organization was developed in 1976 to promote “community ophthalmology” through education, public health outreach and provision of medical services, especially in underserved communities, according to the obituary.

In addition to her position at UCLA, Bath served as an employee of Los Angeles County, a faculty member at what is now Charles R. Drew University Medicine and Science and chief of the ophthalmology division at Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital/Charles Drew Postgraduate Medical School. She retired in 1993 but continued to lecture around the world.

Patricia Bath

Patricia Bath, MD, the inventor of the Laserphaco probe and the first black female doctor to patent a medical invention, died from complications from cancer May 30 at the age of 76, according to a Washington Post obituary.

A graduate of Hunter College and Howard University College of Medicine, Bath was the first female ophthalmology faculty member at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“We are saddened to learn of the death of our former colleague, Dr. Patricia Bath,” Bartly Mondino, MD, director of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute and department chair of ophthalmology in the medical school, said in a press release from UCLA. “Dr. Bath was an influential trailblazer for women and minorities in the field of ophthalmology. She will be missed.”

Bath held five patents and was the co-founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. The nonprofit organization was developed in 1976 to promote “community ophthalmology” through education, public health outreach and provision of medical services, especially in underserved communities, according to the obituary.

In addition to her position at UCLA, Bath served as an employee of Los Angeles County, a faculty member at what is now Charles R. Drew University Medicine and Science and chief of the ophthalmology division at Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital/Charles Drew Postgraduate Medical School. She retired in 1993 but continued to lecture around the world.

    Perspective
    Lisa M. Nijm

    Lisa M. Nijm

    As a pioneer in ophthalmology, Dr. Patricia Bath traversed many barriers throughout her career. From serving as the first female faculty member at UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute to inventing the Laserphaco probe, she made an impact through her hard work, relentless effort and dedication to the profession of ophthalmology. In addition to her leadership in clinical care and research, she co-founded and served as president of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, focusing on integrating basic eye care screenings into primary care to eliminate vision-related disparities and preventable blindness experienced by racial ethnic minorities and low-income patients. Dr. Bath also served on numerous boards of national and local groups advocating for STEM, community service and women’s rights. Earlier this year she testified in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to advocate for the inclusion and support of more women and minorities to have access to developing patents. While breaking barriers — and Dr. Bath broke many of them — she imparted an inspirational message for those looking to be champions for change to keep their “eyes on the prize” and ignore the “noise” from those who tried to stand in their way. We are grateful for her inspiration and many contributions to the field of ophthalmology.

    • Lisa M. Nijm, MD, JD
    • President, Women in Ophthalmology

    Disclosures: Nijm reports no relevant financial disclosures.