Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Breaking Ground in Ophthalmology

"My love of humanity and passion for helping others inspired me to become a physician."
Dr. Patricia Bath
Today in Black History...

In 1988 Dr. Patricia E. Bath of Los Angeles, a renowned ophthalmologist and Black woman, patented an apparatus that efficiently removes cataracts by using laser technology. 

About Dr. Bath:  She has broken ground for women and African Americans in a number of areas. Prior to Bath, no woman had served on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, headed a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology or been elected to the honorary staff of theUCLA Medical Center (an honor bestowed on her after her retirement). Before Bath, no black person had served as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University and no black woman had ever served on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. Bath is the first African American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Her Laserphaco Probe is used around the world to treat cataracts. The holder of four patents, she is also the founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington D.C.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_Bath  

Her Biggest Obstacles:
Sexism, racism, and relative poverty were the obstacles which I faced as a young girl growing up in Harlem. There were no women physicians I knew of and surgery was a male-dominated profession; no high schools existed in Harlem, a predominantly black community; additionally, blacks were excluded from numerous medical schools and medical societies; and, my family did not possess the funds to send me to medical school. [Dr. Bath says her mother scrubbed floors so she could go to medical school.]

Despite official university policies extolling equality and condemning discrimination, Bath experienced both sexism and racism during her tenure at both UCLA and Drew. Determined that her research not be obstructed by the "glass ceilings," she took her research abroad to Europe, where her research was accepted on its merits at the Laser Medical Center of Berlin, West Germany, the Rothschild Eye Institute of Paris, France, and the Loughborough (England) Institute of Technology. At those institutions she excelled in research and laser science, the fruits of which are evidenced by her patents for laser eye surgery.

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