How Her Defiance Led To This Astonishing Discovery in Eye Care

July 5, 2019

Born in Harlem, Dr. Patricia Bath had a passion for helping others, and it was when she was in medical school that she saw how bad our communities were hit with blindness.

Dr. Bath dedicated her life to ensuring our communities had the right to see and access to eye care. She was the catalyst behind Harlem Hospital’s first major eye operation in 1970, when she fought to bring ophthalmic surgical services to Harlem Hospital's Eye Clinic.

Later, Dr. Bath moved to California to become the first Black surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, the first woman ophthalmologist on the faculty of UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute and Chair of the King-Drew-UCLA Ophthalmology Residency Program.

But, glass ceilings at both institutions forced Dr. Bath to make a life-changing decision... 

She took her talents elsewhere. Actually, to Europe, where her research truly flourished and she excelled. The result was several patents, including the device and technique for laser eye surgery.

“I had a few obstacles but I had to shake it off,” Dr. Bath said, “‘Hater-ation,’ segregation, racism, that’s the noise you have to ignore that and keep your eyes focused on the prize, it’s just like Dr. Martin Luther King said, so that’s what I did.”

Dr. Bath died in 2019 from complications of cancer. But her philosophy, world impact, and pioneering spirit of breaking through racist and sexist barriers live on as inspiration for us in our lifework.

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