Today, we are celebrating the 109th birthday of Dr Virginia Apgar, an American obstetrical anesthetist. Dr Apgar was born on 7 June, 1909 in New Jersey, United States. She is known for her work in the fields of anaesthesiology and teratology, anesthetics and the study of abnormalities of psychological development in newly-born babies babies.

Who is Dr Virginia Apgar?

Born in New Jersey in 1909 to a musical family, Apgar always had a keen interest in science and left school knowing she wanted to be a doctor. She was the youngest of three children. Her father was an insurance executive, but also an inventor and astronomer. She initially studied zoology, chemistry and physiology before attending Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
However, she was discouraged from pursuing surgery by Dr Allen Whipple at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center who instead advised her to study anaesthesiology. She eventually became a leading figure in the fields of anaesthesiology and teratology.

What is APGAR score?

The doctor developed a newborn infant’s neonatal prognosis, known as the Apgar Score, which is taken within minutes of birth and has become standard practice in hospitals worldwide. After starting work in New York in 1933, Dr Apgar was disturbed by the treatment of newborn babies particularly those who were malformed or had troubled breathing. To her astonishment, infants who were blue or were struggling to breathe were listed as stillborn and left to die. This prompted the fiercely passionate physician to develop her score, which has a range of 0-10 based on a tot’s condition. It soon became clear that a baby with a poor rating could be resuscitated, by oxygen and warming, to a good score in around five minutes.

The Apgar scale is determined by five simple criterion:
A ppearance
P ulse
G rimace
A ctivity
R espiration

Dr Apgar also supported universal vaccination to prevent mother-to-child infection of rubella which caused thousands of miscarriages, death in infancy and physical disability in newly born babies.
She co-wrote a book in 1972 called “Is My Baby All Right? A Guide to Birth Defects”, written with Joan Beck. The books explains the causes and treatment of a variety of birth defects. It was published in 1972.

Thanks in part to Apgar’s work, the death rate for newborns in the US has dropped from one in 30 in the 1950s to one in 500 today. She died on 7 August, 1974 because of a liver failure, due to cirrhosis.

Source : 1.