The National Business League

Founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington – August 23, 1900



Patricia Bath

Laserphaco Cataract Surgery and Community Ophthalmology

Dr. Patricia Bath, a visionary physician, scientist, and inventor, overcame barriers of race, gender, and socioeconomic status with grit and persistence. The inventor of Laserphaco, a device and technique to remove cataracts, Dr. Bath improved the lives of millions of individuals struggling with vision problems.

While working as a medical intern at Harlem Hospital in 1968, Bath noticed that the number of patients who were blind or visually impaired was exceptionally high. Through state blindness registries, she also observed that African Americans were twice as likely to develop blindness and eight times as likely to develop glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness. Her research revealed the pivotal role public health plays in disease prevention. Bath went on to develop “community ophthalmology” as a new public health-based discipline to increase access to health information and preventable care.

Wishing to do more to help her community, she next turned her creativity and drive to inventing. Bath’s device uses a small, 1-millimeter insertion into the patient’s eye, allowing for surgeons to treat the blemishes faster, more accurately, and less invasively. She received her first of five U.S. patents in 1988.

Bath changed the public health landscape. In 1976, she co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, and she became a global advocate for healthy vision. Speaking to her motivation for this work, she explained, “Service to the underserved was a natural evolution of my life from my Harlem roots.” Bath achieved many firsts, including being one of the first two Black women inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.