Meet a woman who changed the face of medicine

Dr. Patricia Bath, the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent, revolutionized cataract surgery.
8:06 | 02/26/18

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Transcript for Meet a woman who changed the face of medicine
This morning, the grand finale of the special series highlighting women. A hidden figure. One of the women who changed the world. Dr. Patricia bath is the inventor who revolutionized the way cataract surgery is perform I'll have the privilege of speaking with her in a moment. First, her story. The human Yi is one of our most complex organs. 100 million cells working hard each day to give us the gift of sight. Sometimes the eye's lens gets cloudy. Creating what's known as a cataract. It makes it hard to see. For years, opthalmologists struggled with finding a better way to remove cataracts. Friends and colleagues, it's a pleasure to present the this preliminary report. Reporter: Dr. Pa Trish that bath is the pioneer who revolutionized how cataract surgery was per tomorrowed. I discovered a method to remove the cataract with a laser beam. Reporter: She's the first person to use a laser. She invented laser faco. I knew that was a groundbreaking discovery. Soy heedly did file a patent for this new technology. In 1986. Reporter: History in the making. Dr. Bath is the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. Her curiosity began as a child. And by the time she reached high school, she was a national science foundation scholar. Her cancer research earned her a "New York Times" front page feature. I was in Harlem. It was the tip of the civil rights era. I think that was note worthy that a black child in Harlem could be doing scientific research alongside a white kid from the Hamptons. Reporter: She wept on to earn her medical degree from Howard university, as she rose in the ophthalmology community, she was often the only woman and the only person of color. I did not allow that to faze my vision. If anything, it challenged me to be not equal but better and the best. Reporter: She became the first woman ophthalmologist at the Joel stein eye institute. In 2009, her advocacy work for the blind earned her the ultimate honor. President Barack Obama appointed her to the commission for digital accessibility to the blind. It was exciting to become an incidental role model by striving for excellence. Working hard. Giving back to the community. Would you please welcome, to "Good morning America," Dr. Patricia bath. How are you? How are you? Come on over. Come on over right over here. Oh, sit down. Oh, my goodness. I love the welcome that you received coming on out like that. Please tell us, at a time this revolutionary technique you came up with at a time when women, minorities in science were overlooked. How did you overcome the hurdles? I had a few obstacles. I had to shake it off, like Taylor Swift says. Shake off the haters. Shake off the haters. Hate-eration. Segregation, that's the noise. You have to ignore that. Keep your eyes on the the prize. That's what Dr. Martin Luther king said. I focused. You talk about Dr. King. Your career really parallels pivotal moments in the civil rights movement. How did that impact you? You know, as a medical student, as an undergraduate, I was involved in the civil rights movement. And so, you know, I saw the results of the suffering from racism, with health care disparities. I was determined to make a difference. I was determined to try to serve my community and Harlem. You had offers to go all around the world. And you chose to stay here in your community. Working out in California you were still working with the martin Luther king hospital. I had dream credentials from nyu and Columbia. When I was at UCLA, I decided I'm going to serve the people in Compton and Watts, in addition to my practice at UCLA. I had to do that. Because -- of my formative years during the civil rights struggle. And you have traveled around the world and helping people preventing blindness with your organization. Tell us about that. Well, the American institute for the prevention of blindness, we championed a new concept called community ophthalmology. We wanted to prevent blindness throughout the world. Because we believe that eyesight is a basic human right. It's like health care is a basic rum height in America! I said it. You said it. You said it. You said it, my friend. I said it. We have something in common. My parents met and fell in love at Howard ersity. My niece is a graduate of the medical school at Howard, which you are. They're celebrating your50 years from doing that. With something special at Howard. I graduated in 1968. This is our 50th anniversary. I'm being honored by a named scholarship. Oh, that's wonderful. All right. That ATS terrific. And -- you also -- you did your residency at nyu. And we have some people from nyu. A young woman who wants to ask you a question. Thank you so much for being here. Your career is full of so many firsts. From your time as a resident to your time on faculty at UCLA. How did you remain open to pursuing the roles? To connect with what robin said, you know, coming from, family, my father emigrated from Trinidad. My mother came from the south. They had high expectations. Only 100%. Only As. They wanted me to absolutely be the best. And so, I had to use my life and you know, reward them by hard work. And how did you -- you're so optimistic. I believe that optimism is so important. When you see these young residents. Knowing what you went through, how did you bypass those hurdles? I want to pass the torch to young girls and have them do S.T.E.M. The residents, choose ophthalmology. I want them to avoid the financial hardships I had by sponsoring the the Patricia bath go fund me scholarship at Howard. Do you all have something to give Dr. Bath? We have a gift for you. Oh. Thank you.

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