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Heroes of Progress: Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar, an American anesthesiologist and medical researcher, created a test to assess the health of new-born babies quickly and to find out if infants need immediate neonatal medical care.

The 'Apgar Score' continues to be used as a standard practice worldwide, and is accredited with saving the lives of millions of babies.

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Heroes of Progress: Virginia Apgar

Heroes of Progress: Virginia Apgar

https://humanprogress.org/article.php?p=2019

humanprogress.org

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Key Ideas

Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar, an American anesthesiologist and medical researcher, created a test to assess the health of new-born babies quickly and to find out if infants need immediate neonatal medical care.

The 'Apgar Score' continues to be used as a standard practice worldwide, and is accredited with saving the lives of millions of babies.

The life of Virginia Apgar

  • She was born on June 7, 1909, in Westfield, New Jersey.
  • Apgar focused on a career in the medical industry due to her two brother's medical problems. (One died due to tuberculosis, and the other lived with a chronic illness.)
  • In 1929, Apgar earnt a degree in zoology, and in the same year, she began her medical training at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
  • She obtained her MD in 1933 and began a two-year surgical internship. She was advised to make a career in a new field of study, anesthesiology.
  • She later became the director of the newly established division of anesthesia at the Presbyterian Hospital.
  • In 1949, she became the first female to hold a full professorship in anesthesiology at P&S, affording her more time to do research.

Infant mortality in the U.S.

Virginia Apgar noticed that although infants mortality declined between 1930 and 1950, the death rate for babies in the first 24 hours after birth stayed the same.

Apgar began recording the differences between healthy newborns and newborns requiring medical attention. She created a test to asses the health of newborn babies.

The Apgar test

The Apgar scoring system gives each newborn a score of 0,1, or 2 across five categories. Zero is given to the worst possible condition, and two is the ideal condition.

  • Activity (muscle tone)
  • Pulse
  • Grimace (reflex irritability)
  • Appearance (skin color)
  • Respiration

The test is performed 1 minute after the baby is born, then again after 5 minutes. A total score of 3 or below is categorized as critically low and in need of immediate medical care.

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