Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Google Doodle honors Mount Holyoke's Virginia Apgar

Google Doodle honors Mount Holyoke's Virginia Apgar

Google doodle today remembers Dr Apgar on what would have been her 109th birthday. Dr Apgar developed the score in 1952 to quantify the effect of obstetric anaesthesia on babies. The Apgar test is conducted a minute after birth, and again four minutes later, in order to judge the effectiveness of intervention. On the other hand, the 5-minute score tells the health care provider how well the baby is doing outside the mother's womb.

"Five points-heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, reflex response, and color-are observed and given 0, 1, or 2 points".

Doctors score each part score of zero to two, with the highest total score being 10. The Apgar score was quickly adopted by hospitals across the US and eventually worldwide and is credited for lowering the national infant mortality rate. An Apgar Score below four may mean resuscitation is needed. This was because there was no commonly used method for measuring newborn health.

This was achieved by trying to investigate the first 24 hours of an infant's life and document trends to distinguish healthy babies from unhealthy ones. She noticed that the number of infant deaths within the first 24 hours remained high, despite the fact that overall the USA infant mortality rate was decreasing.

The Apgar score contributed immensely towards reducing infant mortality.

Apgar was the youngest of three children.

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Dr Virginia Apgar received a degree in public health from John Hopkins University in 1959. And yet, when her division was upgraded to a department, she was passed over for the chair position in favor of a male colleague.

The doctor was the first woman to become a professor at the prestigious Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeon in 1949. She did so and, at 29, she became the sole practicing anesthetist at Columbia until the mid-1940s.

She never married and died of cirrhosis of the liver on August 7, 1974.

Virginia Apgar was trained as a surgeon who specialised in anaesthesiology. She was also the first woman to head a division at the Presbyterian Hospital in NY.

Apgar's work on prevention of infant mortality was eventually recognised as she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in the US.

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

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