Winning Essay by Samantha B. from Alabama
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Dr. Patricia Bath is an admirable woman of science. She became interested in research when given a chemistry set as a young girl. At 18 she participated in a cancer research program and received the Merit Award from Mademoiselle  magazine for her remarkable discoveries. She graduated from high school early, earned an M. D. degree, and began an internship at Harlem Hospital. After a year at Harlem, she began an ophthalmology fellowship at Columbia University during which she noticed the majority of their blind patients were African American. She discovered black patients had a much greater risk of suffering from blindness as well as glaucoma. Through her diligent research, Bath was able to provide eye care for those who could not afford it with a community ophthalmology program.
 
 When she completed her ophthalmology residency in 1973, she was the first African American to do so, and she was also the first female faculty member at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute when she joined the ophthalmology department two years later. She was a co-founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in 1976, and helped begin UCLA-Drew’s Ophthalmology Residency Training Program as the first female to chair such a program by 1983.
 
 During the production of this program, Bath began a private study of laser technology in combination with ophthalmology in 1981. After five years of research and testing, she introduced her Laserphaco Probe to administer a more precise and less painful treatment of cataracts. In 1988 she was the first female African American doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose, and her invention holds several national and international patents. The Laserphaco Probe allowed Bath to treat patients blinded by cataracts and restore their vision; her invention is currently used worldwide.
 
 I personally owe Bath immeasurable gratitude. When I was an infant, my ophthalmologist discovered I had a congenital cataract in my right eye. He was fascinated by this rare case as cataracts are typically found in the eyes of individuals over the age of 70. With the help of Bath’s Laserphaco Probe, he was able to remove my cataract and insert an intraocular lens to restore my eyesight–a relatively new procedure. A few years ago my mother also developed cataracts in both eyes at the young age of 45. Bath’s invention was used for my mother’s lens replacement surgery as well.
 
Before the invention of the Laserphaco Probe, cataract treatment was expensive, painful, and inaccurate, but Patricia Bath’s passion and dedication for her research allowed many patients worldwide to receive a more effective treatment with fewer risks. If she had not invented the Laserphaco Probe, my mother and I would still have cataracts inhibiting our vision due to the risks and cost of previous treatments. Patricia Bath has greatly improved my life with her life’s work, and her achievements have inspired me to enter the medical field to make an impact on the lives of others as she has done for me.
 
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