June 07, 2018
Google Doodle is celebrating the birthday of a woman who pioneered a technique which revolutionised medicine and the treatment of newborn babies, Dr Virginia Apgar.
Virginia Apgar: Who is the Dr who saved millions of babies and who Google is celebrating?
The American anesthesiologist would have been celebrating her 109th birthday.
Dr Apgar was born on June 7, 1909 and was raised in Westfield, New Jersey, US.
Her family was devoted to music, but she dedicated her life to lowering the USA’s infant mortality rate.
She may not be well-known in the UK but she worked in obstetrics and created the "Apgar score" which is given to newborns to quickly assess their 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.
The Apgar score is as follows: "Each newborn is given a score of 0, 1, or 2 (a score of 2 meaning the newborn is in optimal condition, 0 being in distress) in each of the following categories: heart rate, respiration, colour, muscle tone, and reflex irritability.
"Compiled scores for each newborn can range between 0 and 10, with 10 being the best possible condition for a newborn. The scores were to be given to a newborn one minute after birth, and additional scores could be given in five-minute increments to guide treatment if the newborn's condition did not sufficiently improve."
Severe medical problems in her family led her to develop an interest in science and medicine.
Her older brother died from tuberculosis and another suffered from a prolonged chronic illness.
When she graduated in 1925 she knew she wanted to become a doctor and completed a residency at P&S in 1937.
The doctor was the first woman to become a professor at the prestigious Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeon in 1949.
Virginia Apgar: Who is the Dr who saved millions of babies and who Google is celebrating?
Dr Apgar was persuaded to go into anesthesiology by P&S Chairman Dr Allen Whipple.
Whipple felt the scientific discipline needed advancing and she had the “energy and ability” to help it.
The Apgar score is a way of measuring the health of a baby right after birth and is still used in many hospitals in the US today.
She gave thousands of babies scores during the 1950s as the rate of infant mortality in the US began to climb.
By the 1960s the technique was the main shorthand for recording a child’s health.
Virginia Apgar: Who is the Dr who saved millions of babies and who Google is celebrating?
The doctor travelled widely and gave lectures across the US.
Virginia also published over 60 scientific articles and became well-known in the study of birth defects – teratology.
She also co-wrote the 1972 book "Is My Baby All Right?" which explained the causes and treatment of common birth defects.
The doctor was given three honorary doctorates during her career rom the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Mount Holyoke College and the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry.
But she maintained a variety of interests throughout her busy career.
These included fishing, stamp collecting and flying lessons in her fifties.
She never married and died of cirrhosis of the liver on August 7, 1974.
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