In memoriam: Dr. Patricia Bath, 76, physician and inventor who helped ‘restore or improve vision for millions’

Dr. Patricia Bath
Dr. Patricia Bath

Dr. Patricia Bath, the first female faculty member in ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has died of complications from cancer. She was 76.

"We are saddened to learn of the death of our former colleague, Dr. Patricia Bath," said Dr. Bartly Mondino, director of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute and department chair of ophthalmology in the medical school. "Dr. Bath was an influential trailblazer for women and minorities in the field of ophthalmology. She will be missed."

Bath held a faculty appointment in the UCLA ophthalmology department from 1974 to 1987. During this period, she was also a full-time employee of Los Angeles County and a faculty member at what is now Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Bath, who was born in Harlem on Nov. 4, 1942, according to a New York Times obituary, is credited with inventing the Laserphaco Probe, a device she patented in 1988 to improve cataract surgery.

The New York Times noted that the United States Patent and Trademark Office said in a 2014 news release that the device had "helped restore or improve vision to millions of patients worldwide."

She also co-founded the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. The National Institute of Medicine recognized Bath's many achievements in a biography titled "Changing the Face of Medicine."

Among her many roles, Bath was chief of the ophthalmology division at the Martin Luther King, Jr., General Hospital/Charles Drew Postgraduate Medical School (since renamed), and director of the school's ophthalmology residency training program. 

Bath is survived by her daughter, Dr. Eraka Bath, a member of the psychiatry faculty at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

There will be a celebration of Dr. Patricia Bath's life on Friday, June 14, at 10:00a.m. at Holman United Methodist Church. The address is 3320 West Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, 90018.