Patricia Bath and the Laserphaco Probe

Patricia Bath – Inventor of Laserphaco Probe

Since the first humans walked the earth, inventors have been transforming the way the average consumer lives and functions. For example, we can thank Willis Carrier for his invention of the air conditioner in 1902 and Charles Strite for his invention of the pop­up toaster in 1919. Since their initial creation, both inventions have become widely used as well as greatly improved. Apart from those inventions, which have created unlimited amounts of convenience within the average consumer’s home­life, there have also been numerous technological advancements within the medical field. These new advancements have led to many breakthroughs for humanity that directly relate to the average consumer’s health and wellness. One of these life­changing breakthroughs was invented in the year 1988 by African American ophthalmologist Patricia Bath and focuses on restoring sight to the eyes of those who have lost their vision or who were never able to use their sight upon birth.

Bath was born on November 4, 1942 in Manhattan, NY to Rupert and Gladys Bath. Her father was a columnist for a newspaper and the first black man to work as a motorman for the New York City (NYC) subway while her mother worked as a housekeeper. As a young girl living in Harlem, Bath dealt with racism and sexism as well as poverty and even had a difficult time finding other successful African Americans to look up to. Despite external matters which she was unable to control, Bath excelled academically and due to her outstanding school performance was often instructed by her teachers to stay focused on her academic studies. Through studying the philosophy and work of Albert Schweitzer, Bath became inspired and felt inclined to further her studies by attending medical school even though her family didn’t have the necessary funds to support her. Instead of cowering away from her passion, Bath applied for and won a National Science Foundation Scholarship while attending Charles Evans Hughes High School (CEHHS). This scholarship enabled her to continue on with her studies in the medical field at university level. She then went on to accept her high school diploma from CEHHS within just two and a half years.

While pursuing her studies of math and science, Bath faced many challenges. One factor that carried weight in Bath’s performance was the lack of black physicians she found herself being able to look up to. Bath then began to develop strong feelings for the black community and despite various obstacles remained focused and in 1964 received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Manhattan’s Hunter College. A few years later, Bath became inspired after coming to the realization that eye care was of minimal concern to those holding power among various minorities and impoverished social groups. These two underrepresented groups made up a majority of those suffering from blindness more than any other racial and/or financial group thus pushing African Americans and those living among poor families towards becoming Bath’s main focal point within her budding medical career.

In 1968, Bath received her doctoral degree from the Howard University School of Medicine and eventually became the first African American female doctor to place a patent on a medical invention. Then, while interning at Harlem Hospital Center in 1981, Bath came up with the idea for her most famous invention … the Laserphaco Probe ­ a medical device that utilizes laser technology to remove cataracts. This device was finally completed in 1986 then patented two years later in 1988. Soon after, Bath was elected to the Hunter College Hall of Fame and eventually went on to become the first African­ American Surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. She also became the first women to be on the faculty at UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. Not only was Patricia Bath a dedicated young student and intelligent woman but she also became a role model for those who shared similar passions within African American communities. In essence, Bath became the role model for others that she always searched for, herself.

Bath’s invention of the Cataract Laserphaco Probe was designed to utilize laser technology in order to painlessly eliminate cataracts from patients in an efficient and timely manner. This quick and painless method soon replaced previous methods within the medical field and even went on to change the game of surgery. Through the use of laser technology, this specific medical procedure was much more accurate than any other method previously used. Within time, Bath was able to restore the vision to patients who had been blind for more than 40 years. Dr. Patricia Bath’s laserphaco probe is one technological advancement within the medical field that is, by far, one of the most positive breakthroughs that directly concerns the average consumer’s health and overall wellness. The laserphaco probe is now used internationally to treat the cataract eye disease.