Title: Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight
Author: Michelle Lord
Illustrator: Alleanna Harris
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books, January 2020
Themes: mighty girls, female doctors, ophthalmology, invention, laser eye surgery, following a dream, equality, African American Women, Black History Month, patents, STEM, Harlem, perseverance
Harlem, New York City, late 1940s.
Young Patricia Bath was curious. She peered at a man begging
for coins. Folks in her neighborhood strolled past him, but
Patricia watched and wondered . . .
Why are his eyes cloudy?
How did it happen?
She shut her eyes and pondered,
What’s it like to live in the dark?
The inspiring story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist who pioneered laser surgery—and gave her patients the gift of sight.
Born in the 1940s, Patricia Bath dreamed of being an ophthalmologist at a time when becoming a doctor wasn’t a career option for most women—especially African-American women. This empowering biography follows Dr. Bath in her quest to save and restore sight to the blind, and her decision to “choose miracles” when everyone else had given up hope. Along the way, she cofounded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, invented a specialized laser for removing cataracts, and became the first African-American woman doctor to receive a medical patent.
Why I like this book:
I have just checked, and I am sorry to report that Dr. Bath died in San Fransciso on May 30, 2019 after a brief illness. She was 76 years old. But I am delighted to see her courage, ingenuity and contribution to science honored in this lovely biography. We need so many more biographies of African American women and men that do not focus on slavery/persecution (though of course, we need these too.)
Lord reveals that this Harlem born woman, from a family of modest means, achieved a ton of feats and firsts in her extraordinary life. She was the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology; the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in the United States; and the first African American female doctor to secure a medical patent. She also co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. And in 2001, she was inducted into the International Women in Medicine Hall of Fame.
With key life moments, Lord shows how Dr. Bath persevered with her compassionate vision in a not-so-welcoming man’s world, to serve poorer segments of society. She was a pioneer paving the way for black female ophthalmologists, and this pioneer spirit comes across strongly through the scattered direct quotes that Lord includes. Aimed at a slightly older demographic than some picture books, I appreciate the scientific detail in this biography as well as the focus on attitudes as much as accomplishments. No dumbing down here. And for many readers, this may be their first exposure to the concept of patents.
The illustrations, including a couple of more scientific ones of the eye, perfectly support the text without ever detracting from the words.
The narration felt very personal and so I was not surprised to read at the end that the author had conducted a series of telephone interviews with Dr. Bath. This is a great addition to Black History Month books in your school library and has several STEM applications too.
The book includes a timeline, author’s note, selected works cited, and additional reading about other women in STEM.
The American Optometric Association have a good page on How Your Eyes Work.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.