Late UCLA Health ophthalmologist Dr. Patricia Bath inducted into National Women’s Hall of Fame

Dr. Bath was the first Black female physician to receive a medical patent, among her many trailblazing achievements.
Dr. Eraka Bath and her mother, Dr. Patricia Bath.
Dr. Eraka Bath and her mother, Dr. Patricia Bath.

UCLA Health ophthalmologist and surgeon Patricia Bath, MD, has been posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

Dr. Bath’s recognition comes on the heels of her posthumous induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2022. She was one of the first Black women to be so recognized.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame has been honoring outstanding American women for more than 50 years. This year’s inductees also include feminist scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, a professor at UCLA School of Law; tennis great Serena Williams; and late pathologist Anna Wessels Williams, who developed the vaccine for diphtheria in the 1920s.

“It’s a very important organization and an incredible honor,” says Dr. Bath’s daughter, UCLA Health psychiatrist Eraka Bath, MD, who represented her mother at the induction ceremony March 5 in New York. “The people she’s being honored alongside are remarkable women who’ve made significant contributions to society.”

Dr. Patricia Bath was the first female member of the UCLA Stein Eye Institute and the first female faculty member in ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where she worked from 1974 to 1988. During this period, in 1976, Dr. Bath cofounded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. 

Dr. Bath was a trailblazer for women and minorities in the field of ophthalmology,” said Bartly Mondino, MD, former director of the Stein Eye Institute.

In 1988, Dr. Bath became the first Black female physician to receive a medical patent, one of five U.S. patents and three international patents in her career. It was for the Laserphaco Probe, a tool that uses a laser to remove cataracts.

“It really revolutionized eye surgery,” her daughter says. “Lasers weren’t being used before for ophthalmic procedures.”

Dr. Bath died in 2019. Though her daughter says it would have been lovely for her mother to have received these hall of fame inductions while she was alive, she’s just glad her mom’s contributions are being recognized.

“It’s wonderful news,” she says.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame 2024 induction ceremony will be broadcast on the Oprah Winfrey Network on March 24. Winfrey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.

This is the first year the ceremony will be televised.