Google on Thursday created an animated doodle dedicated to Dr. Virginia Apgar, who is best known for developing the ‘Apgar score’ to test newborn infants.
The Apgar in the Apgar Score is an acronym for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. Apgar created a scale to judge the skin colour, pulse, reflex, and respiration of new-borns. The test is carried out within five minutes of birth and it takes about a minute to judge if the infant needs any immediate medical attention. Developed in 1952 in the US when the infant mortality ratio was high, the Apgar score is a key reason for that country seeing a massive drop in newborn deaths. The test also prepared physicians to handle immediate medical needs of newborns such as resuscitation and emergency care. Countries across the world were quick to adopt the test and the Apgar Score is being used even today by obstetricians.
Virginia Apgar was trained as a surgeon who specialised in anaesthesiology. She became the first full-time woman professor at Columbia University in 1949. She was also the first woman to head a division at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York. Apgar concentrated on maternal anesthesia practices and is considered the pioneer in teratology, the study of birth defects. Apgar has published over 60 medical articles, and co-wrote the bestseller “Is My Baby All Right?” with Joan Beck.
Born on June 7, 1909, Apgar was the third child of her parents. She lost her elder sibling to tuberculosis, and seeing her brother suffering from childhood illness made Apgar choose medicine. She entered the field at a time when America had too few women medical practitioners. She was discouraged from practising surgery as a career, her University chose her male colleague to head the department even though she was seniormost, and she had to fight for equal pay. “She remained adamant about equal pay for women until her death,” wrote Laura Lynn Windsor in the “Women in Medicine: An Encyclopedia.”
Though Apgar stayed away from women’s movements, she would say “women were liberated the day they were born: they just had to be better at what they did to succeed in a man’s world or profession.”
In her last years, Apgar developed progressive liver cirrhosis. She passed away at the age of 65 in the same hospital where she was practising.