Patricia Bath grew up in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. Bath attended and graduated from Charles Evans Hughes High School in New York City, as well as Hunter College, also in New York City. Bath later graduated from Howard University's College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
In 1974, Bath became the first woman appointed to the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine Jules Stein Eye Institute. In 1983, Bath became the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in the United States. In 1986, Bath invented the laserphaco, a new device and technique for cataract surgery. With her patent of the laserphaco, Bath also became the first African-American female doctor to secure a medical patent.