Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Medical | By

Google Doodle pays homage to baby-saving doctor Virginia Apgar

Google Doodle pays homage to baby-saving doctor Virginia Apgar

Though Apgar stayed away from women's movements, she would say "women were liberated the day they were born: they just had to be better at what they did to succeed in a man's world or profession".

Today's Google Doodle (June 7) celebrates what would have been her 109th birthday, and features a cartoon of her conducting her namesake test. Countries across the world were quick to adopt the test and the Apgar Score is being used even today by obstetricians.

The US clinician was born in 1909 in Westfield, New Jersey to a musical family. Babies are assessed under five factors: appearance, pulse, grimace, activity and respiration.

The assessment has been called the "birth of clinical neonatology" and credited with not only reducing infant mortality but also changing health care's approach to the birth process to be more effectively focus on mother and child and the effects of delivery on the baby.

Each category is scored with 0, 1, or 2, depending on the observed condition.

Apgar graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in the U.S. with flying colours.

A score lower than 7 should warn caregivers that the baby needs medical attention. Apgar concentrated on maternal anesthesia practices and is considered the pioneer in teratology, the study of birth defects.


Apart from developing her famous scoring exercise, Dr. Apgar was a notable advocate for universal vaccination in order to combat the rubella epidemic of the mid-Sixties.

Talking about obstetrics and the development of Apgar score, between the 1930s and the 1950s, the infant mortality rate decreased in the US.

At a time when few women went to medical school, Apgar attended the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, obtaining a medical degree in 1933. She was discouraged from practising surgery as a career, her University chose her male colleague to head the department even though she was seniormost, and she had to fight for equal pay.

She also co-wrote the 1972 book "Is My Baby All Right?" which explained the causes and treatment of common birth defects.

She trained in anesthesia at the University of Wisconsin and Bellevue Hospital in the United States, but returned to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in 1938.

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

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