Sunday, 24 June, 2018

The pioneering woman who invented a life-saving test for newborns

Virginia Apgar would have been 101 on Thursday Virginia Apgar would have been 101 on Thursday
Samantha Long | 08 June, 2018, 10:37

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.

Virginia Apgar is the subject of the Google home page's latest Doodle.

The animated doodle for Thursday June 7 shows a woman in lab coat documenting the movements of a newborn positioned atop the words "Apgar".

The Apgar test is performed on a baby at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. So, in 1952, using both her skills in obstetrical anesthesia and her keen interest in neonatal science, she invented the Apgar score, which measures Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. While those accomplishments are impressive, particularly for a woman at the time, her real contribution to the world is the so-called Apgar Score.

The assessment has been called the "birth of clinical neonatology" and credited with not only reducing infant mortality but also changing health care's approach to the birth process to be more effectively focus on mother and child and the effects of delivery on the baby.

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"Compiled scores for each newborn can range between 0 and 10, with 10 being the best possible condition for a newborn". She was also the first woman to head a division at the Presbyterian Hospital in NY. Virginia graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1929 and from the Colombia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons in 1933.

A score lower than 7 should warn caregivers that the baby needs medical attention. The Apgar score was quickly adopted by hospitals across the US and eventually worldwide and is credited for lowering the national infant mortality rate.

Apgar was also an early expert in the area of birth defects. An anesthesiologist by training, she climbed the ranks at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in the 1930s and '40s, when anesthesiology wasn't recognized as a medical specialty. She wanted to be a surgeon, but was discouraged by the (male) chairman of surgery.

Dr Virginia Apgar received a degree in public health from John Hopkins University in 1959. Apgar has published over 60 medical articles, and co-wrote the bestseller "Is My Baby All Right?" with Joan Beck. She died of liver cirrhosis on August 7, 1974.

She worked nearly up until her death at the age of 64.

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