Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Medicine | By Douglas Stevenson

Dr. Virginia Apgar, pioneer behind Apgar score, being celebrated with Google doodle

Dr. Virginia Apgar, pioneer behind Apgar score, being celebrated with Google doodle

She may not be well-known in the United Kingdom but she worked in obstetrics and created the "Apgar score" which is given to newborns to quickly assess their health.

Google Doodle showing Dr. Virginia Apagar. Thursday would have been Apgar's 109th birthday. Countries across the world were quick to adopt the test and the Apgar Score is being used even today by obstetricians.

Born on June 7, 1909, Apgar was the third child of her parents.

As a medical student, Apgar noted that a number of babies that had seemed healthy at birth were dying soon after leaving the hospital. Apgar is is an acronym for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiratory effort.

Depending on the observed condition, each category is scored with 0, 1, or 2. She is known for her work in the fields of anaesthesiology and teratology, a field related to anesthesia (loss of sensation), anesthetics and the study of abnormalities of psychological development in newly-born babies babies.

Google's Doodle today honors a Mount Holyoke College graduate - Dr. Virginia Apgar.

A score lower than 7 should warn caregivers that the baby needs medical attention.

The doctor developed a newborn infant's neonatal prognosis, known as the Apgar Score, which is taken within minutes of birth and has become standard practice in hospitals worldwide. By 1937, she was the first woman to be a board-certified anaesthesiologist. In her later years, she worked for March of Dimes, a non-profit founded by President Franklin Roosevelt that initially targeted polio but went on to focus on the prevention of birth defects.

Her contributions are even more noteworthy as she did her research and inventions at a time when women were discouraged to pursue higher education in medicine. She left Columbia, got a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University, and began her work on genetics.

She also co-wrote the 1972 book "Is My Baby All Right?" which explained the causes and treatment of common birth defects. In 1949, she became the first woman to become a full-time professor at Columbia University.

She trained in anesthesia at the University of Wisconsin and Bellevue Hospital in the USA, but returned to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in 1938.

Apgar never married, and died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 65.

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