Shomoi K. Francis
March 3, 2011
Patricia Bath was born on November 4, 1942, and the daughter of Rupert and Gladys Bath. Her father an immigrant from Trinidad was a newspaper columnist, a merchant seaman and the first black man to work for the New York City Subway as a motorman. She was raised in Harlem; Bath was motivated academically by her parents. Inspired by Albert Schweitzer, she applied for and won a National Science Foundation Scholarship while attending Charles Evans Hughes High School; this led her to a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center on cancer that irritated her interest in medicine. I n 1960, still a teenager, Bath won the "Merit Award" of Mademoiselle Magazine for her contribution to the project. After graduating high school early, Bath received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from New York's Hunter College in 1964. She relocated to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University College of Medicine, from which she received her doctoral degree in 1968. During her time at Howard, she was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Bath interned at Harlem Hospital Center, subsequently serving as a fellow at Columbia University. During this period, from 1968 to 1970, Bath became aware that the practice of eye care was uneven among racial minorities and poor populations, with much higher incidence of blindness amongst her black and poor patients. She determined that, as a physician, she would help address this issue. She persuaded her professors from Columbia to operate on blind patients at Harlem Hospital Center, which had not previously offered eye surgery, at no cost. Bath pioneered the worldwide discipline of "community ophthalmology", a volunteer-based outreach to bring necessary eye care to underserved populations. She served her...