The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Dr. Patricia Bath

Medical scientist Patricia E. Bath was born on November 4, 1942 in Harlem, New York. Bath’s father, Rupert, was a Trinidadian immigrant and the first black motorman in the New York City subway system; her mother, Gladys, was a descendant of African slaves and Cherokee Native Americans and worked as a housewife and domestic. Bath attended Julia Ward Howe Junior High School and Charles Evans Hughes High School. In 1959, Bath received a grant from the National Science Foundation to attend the Summer Institute in Biomedical Science at Yeshiva University in New York, where she worked on a project studying the relationship between caner, nutrition, and stress. Bath went on to graduate from Hunter College in New York City with her B.S. degree in chemistry in 1964. She then attended Howard University Medical School. Bath graduated with honors in 1968 with her M.D. degree and also won the Edwin J. Watson Prize for Outstanding Student in Ophthalmology.

From 1970 until 1973, Bath was the first African American resident in ophthalmology at new York University’s School of Medicine. During this time, she married and gave birth to a daughter, Eraka, in 1972. In 1973, Bath worked as an assistant surgeon at Sydenham Hospital, Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospital, and Metropolitan Surgical Hospital, all in New York City. In 1974, she completed a fellowship in corneal and keratoprosthesis surgery. Then, Bath moved to Los Angeles, California where she became the first African American woman surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center. She was also appointed assistant professor at the Charles R. Drew University. In 1975, Bath became the first woman faculty member of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute.

In 1981, Bath conceived of her invention, the Laserphaco Probe. She traveled to Berlin University in Germany to learn more about laser technology, and over the course of the next five years, she developed and tested a model for a laser instrument that could be tested to remove cataracts. Bath received a patent for her invention on May 17, 1988, and became the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention. She continued to work at UCLA and Drew University during the development of her laser cataract removal instrument, and, in 1983, she developed and chaired an ophthalmology residency training program. From 1983 to 1986, Bath was the first woman chair and first female program director of a postgraduate training program in the United States. In 1993, Bath retired from the UCLA Medical Center. Bath was inducted into the International Women in Medicine Hall of Fame in 2001.

Patricia E. Bath was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 29, 2012.

Bath passed away on May 30, 2019.

Accession Number

A2012.243

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/29/2012

Last Name

Bath

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Charles Evans Hughes High School

Hunter College

Howard University College of Medicine

Julia Ward Howe Junior High School 81

P.S. 68

First Name

Patricia

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

BAT10

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Yes.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/4/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fruit

Death Date

5/30/2019

Short Description

Physician Dr. Patricia Bath (1942 - ) was a professor of ophthalmology at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and the UCLA School of Medicine in Los Angeles, California. She invented the laserphaco probe, a device used in cataract surgery.

Employment

Yeshiva University

Harlem Hospital

Columbia University

New York University

University of California, Los Angeles

Charles R. Drew University

American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:16934,284:17766,294:18494,302:20158,317:21198,330:29880,435:32782,468:35326,548:36174,557:36810,564:38872,587:41933,598:42430,606:43637,628:46690,702:47471,719:49601,773:50524,787:55730,829:63638,895:64198,901:66720,924:67700,933:71950,965:72808,977:80730,1077:81000,1084:81270,1090:81594,1098:81972,1106:86132,1118:92096,1195:93104,1208:94112,1231:102216,1283:102508,1288:105139,1312:109154,1350:111130,1359:115322,1405:116202,1416:117258,1429:117610,1434:119892,1442:120260,1447:120628,1452:121364,1462:121824,1471:122468,1480:123204,1489:126258,1529:126634,1534:128608,1564:129736,1578:130112,1583:134036,1611:135232,1627:139004,1690:139648,1699:140200,1706:143106,1725:144762,1750:145698,1765:146130,1772:153020,1837:153488,1842:157723,1873:158164,1881:158920,1894:159865,1912:173180,2074:177210,2135:179780,2144:180338,2152:180710,2157:181175,2162:183872,2189:185146,2206:187638,2226:188534,2241:189622,2315:190006,2323:190390,2331:190902,2341:191542,2355:192310,2374:192630,2380:196040,2393:200509,2448:201054,2454:202144,2468:210340,2530:213288,2546:216564,2594:216900,2599:219840,2646:231768,2884:240381,3085:241074,3093:245806,3135:246786,3150:249916,3180:250408,3187:250818,3193:251228,3199:271910,3593:272325,3613:274732,3651:275313,3660:276724,3677:277471,3692:278135,3701:278716,3709:279795,3732:280127,3740:284310,3771:285126,3784:286443,3808:288840,3841$0,0:5228,197:6158,209:6530,214:16466,296:18482,321:21170,360:21554,365:25750,386:26956,399:31620,421:32586,434:33069,442:33690,453:38687,487:45158,562:47246,635:54610,697:55650,713:59090,781:59490,787:60770,829:61090,834:66834,856:67302,863:67770,870:68394,880:83579,1087:83911,1092:87646,1267:90538,1278:92630,1289:99064,1424:100168,1439:107264,1535:110446,1602:111186,1616:111630,1682:116783,1734:117148,1740:123221,1809:124376,1830:124838,1838:125223,1844:126378,1861:128303,2011:131640,2132:131928,2137:132216,2142:133296,2156:133656,2162:139976,2207:140340,2212:151644,2367:152009,2373:152447,2380:153323,2393:153615,2398:154491,2409:156827,2440:157119,2445:167345,2501:167855,2508:168960,2523:169555,2531:171255,2558:172955,2581:173380,2587:175290,2595
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Patricia Bath's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Patricia Bath lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her mother's move to New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her paternal great-great-grandfather, Jonas Mohammed Bath

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her father's experiences as a merchant seaman

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her likeness to her parents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers her home life

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers the Harlem community in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers her childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her early education, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls her aspiration to become a doctor

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her early education, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls the era of school desegregation

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her high school science fair experiment

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers Charles Evans Hughes High School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers her early scientific achievements

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls her scholarship to Hunter College in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls her activities at Hunter College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers the social organizations at Hunter College

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls her admission to the Howard University College of Medicine

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers her mentors at the Howard University College of Medicine

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her early interest in ophthalmology

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes the medical licensing process

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls her internship at New York City's Harlem Hospital

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her role in the Poor People's Campaign

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers the birth of her daughter

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her decision to become a single parent

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls joining the faculty of the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers her fellowship in keratoprosthesis

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes the founding of the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls the start of her medical career in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes the development of community ophthalmology

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her study of blindness in the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers inventing the laserphaco probe, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers inventing the laserphaco probe, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about the advancements in ophthalmological laser surgery

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dr. Patricia Bath recalls becoming the chief of ophthalmology at the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes the procedure for cataract surgery

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers her decision to retire

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her artistic interests

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her involvement in the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her involvement in the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Dr. Patricia Bath reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Dr. Patricia Bath reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Dr. Patricia Bath remembers the support of her parents

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Dr. Patricia Bath talks about her daughter

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Dr. Patricia Bath describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$4

DATitle
Dr. Patricia Bath describes her role in the Poor People's Campaign
Dr. Patricia Bath describes the founding of the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School
Transcript
I neglected to ask you about 1968 at, at Howard [Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, D.C.]. Now were you on, you were, I guess, on the verge of graduation when Dr. King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] was killed, right?$$Yes, yes, yeah, that, that, you know, I wanted to mention about Dr. King earlier, and somehow it escaped me, but when I pledged AKA [Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority] as an undergraduate at Hunter College [New York, New York], my chapter [Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.] nominated me for a national office which I did win, and I became the highest ranking undergraduate officer on the board of directors, second (unclear) basileus is what they called it and in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], when King, Martin Luther King, Jr. was speaking at the boule, I had the honor of introducing him to the boule. And so I met Dr. King and it was a brief interaction, you know, moments, minutes, but he was the type of charismatic person that could change (laughter) your whole perspective and so it had a great effect on me. And when I later went to medical school, and when he was killed, it, it did have a big effect on me and I participated in Resurrection City. I organized the medical students so we could provide healthcare, to some extent, during the Poor People's Campaign. You know, we had, that was really, it turned out to be a linchpin in the success of Resurrection City because they were trying to close it down for whatever reason and they didn't want to close it down because they didn't want poor people at the mall that would have not been an American way of closing it down, but, so they thought they could close it down based on health reasons, you know, overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and that's where the medical students came in and my role, with the role of some others, but we established the medical coordinating committee for the Resurrection City. Dr. Mazique, Ed Mazique [Edward C. Mazique], I recall, and Reverend Fauntroy [HistoryMaker Reverend Walter Fauntroy], they were the ones--and Joseph Rines [ph.] from Seventh-day Adventist, they were the ones who came up with this concept and, you know, the medical students supported it and so every time the Department of Health [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] would come up with an excuse to close it, you know, we'd put our heads together and find a way to mitigate, you know, whether it was clean water testing, food preparation, number of infections, kids who needed shots, you know, it was my first field, battlefield experience.$$Okay, now this happened, I guess the march, the Poor People's Campaign was a dream of Dr. King's and took place after his--$$Death.$$--assassination, and--$$Yes, yes, '68 [1968].$$--after the riots and all those--$$Yeah.$$--were over, basically--$$Sixty-eight [1968].$$Yeah, '68 [1968]--$$Um-hm, the year I graduated [from Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, D.C.].$$Yeah, so was that in, did that take place in June, May or June of that year?$$Well, the Poor People's Campaign was for several months--$$Yeah.$$--but, you know, and, of course, when I graduated in May, I stayed, I stayed there until July, had to start my internship [at Harlem Hospital; Harlem Medical Center, New York, New York].$$Okay.$$So I left.$$So, yeah, my recollection is that it, yeah, it started maybe a month or two after Dr. King was assassinated then, with the march, then occupation of the Mall [National Mall, Washington, D.C.]--$$Yes.$$--you know, so, okay so you there until Ju--$$It was great to be a part of that.$$Okay.$$And I have an article on that too. That's, that was published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, there's a shot of myself and Dr. Mazique and the coordinating committee there and our story, what we were doing.$$Okay.$Now, once again, Charles R. Drew [Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School; Charles R. Drew University of Science and Medicine, Los Angeles, California], now, was Charles Drew conceived of as a hospital to give opportunities for African American and maybe even minority medical students?$$Now keep in mind, I'm in New York [New York] and they, they founded this institution before I arrived. My understanding is that Charles Drew medical school was founded as a result of the McCone Commission. There were riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] and--there were riots in Los Angeles [California] and a commission was set up. One of the findings of the commission was that the area of Watts [Los Angeles, California] and South Central [Los Angeles, California] was not only impoverished, but the people lacked access to medical care. So, the McCone Commission determined that one of the positive things that they could do was to promote the establishment of healthcare. So two things happened. One, they built Martin Luther King Hospital [Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center; Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center, Los Angeles, California], which was the county; and secondly, the Drew medical school was created to nurture the hospital, in the same way that Columbia [Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York] would nurture Harlem Hospital [Harlem Medical Center, New York, New York]. The problem though was that Drew had not existed as an established medical school. It's not as if it was a transplant of Howard [Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, D.C.], which couldn't be done. So in order to empower the newly established Drew medical school, the leadership at Drew decided that they would affiliate half of their departments with UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine; David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California] and half of the departments with USC [University of Southern California School of Medicine; Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California]. They felt that that way Drew could maintain autonomy. Had they only affiliated with UCLA, then they would, they felt they would lose autonomy or the same would happen if they had only affiliated with USC. But they felt that by having two major strong institutions that they could maintain autonomy and grow and then eventually, if decided, cut ties with both. So, it was mainly established to provide service to the underserved community of Watts and South Central.