Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dr Patricia Bath - right to sight

Creation: Spring & Creation
To have two eyes can be cause for pride; but to have one eye is better than to have none. (Guinea)

Just a week ago, my 79-year-young aunt had an eye cataract removed. Most Black seniors are likely to have cataract problems (clouding of the vision), and they will most likely benefit from the work of Patricia Era Bath.

Bath received a patent in 1988 for a version of a laser device to remove cataracts. She was born in Harlem, New York, in 1942 to Rupert Bath, a seaman, and Gladys Bath. Her mother scrubbed floors to send Bath to medical school.

She graduated from Howard University School of Medicine in 1968. She then worked as an intern at Harlem Hospital’s Eye Clinic, followed by a fellowship to Colombia University.

Early in her career, she noted that poor Blacks in America suffered a much higher rate of blindness than whites. She therefore created a system to test vision and screen for problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. She also persuaded some of her Colombia professors to provide free eye surgery to blind patients at Harlem Hospital. With Bath’s help, the Black American community significantly benefited from a reduction in eye disease and blindness

In 1977, she was co-founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness (AIPB). This body gives hope to seniors as well as newly-born who have conditions that could lead to blindness. The work of the AIPB is based on the belief that sight is a human right.

Sexism and racism may have slowed Bath’s career but could not derail it. She was the first African-American woman surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center and the first woman to be on the faculty of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. In 1988, she was elected to Hunter College Hall of Fame in 1988 and elected as Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine in 1993.

I give thanks all those who, like my aunt, can exercise their right to sight thanks to Dr Bath's work.

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at