In the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. Virginia Apgar noticed something odd.
Apgar was the first woman to head a specialty division at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. In her personal life, Apgar kept herself busy with work, and she never married or had children. Her research work is believed to have resulted in the decrease of infant mortality level rates in the first 24 hours after childbirth. That's partly because there was no system in place that enabled doctors to compare one newborn with another and easily spot problems or differences between them. This five-step test has doctors examine the appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration of newborns.
The Google Doodle marks what would have been Apgar's 109th birthday. 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 Apgar score was quickly adopted by hospitals across the US and eventually worldwide and is credited for lowering the national infant mortality rate. This helps doctors prioritize which newborns need critical medical attention and which do not.
The APGAR test soon spread in America and around the world.
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The doctor was the first woman to become a professor at the prestigious Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeon in 1949.
As a young women pursuing a career in the medical field she overcame financial difficulties and discrimination to become a pioneering researcher and educator. This was because there was no commonly used method for measuring newborn health.
Apgar became a public health advocate and joined what is now the March of Dimes Foundation to lead fundraising and public education efforts about congenital defects.
She also co-wrote the 1972 book "Is My Baby All Right?" which explained the causes and treatment of common birth defects.
Apgar died in 1974.