On the occasion of the 109th birthday of Dr Virginia Apgar, the famous American obstetrical anesthetist, on June 7, Google has paid a tribute to her by putting up a doodle. The doodle shows Apgar checking an infant.

Dr Virginia Apgar is famously known for the invention of Apgar score, which was a way to quickly assess the health of newborn children immediately after birth. Her invention helped reduce the mortality rate for newborns in the US from one in 30 in the 1950s to one in 500 today. Apgar score has become the main shorthand form of recording a child’s health — particularly in the first 24 hours of its life.

Apgar Score looks at five factors, and doctors remember them by spelling out her last name — Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. Since 1952, when Apgar came up with this scoring system, Apgar Score has been used in most hospital births.

Apgar was born on June 7, 1909, and grew up in Westfield, New Jersey, USA. Since an early age, she had keen interest in science, and accordingly pursued her studies in the domains of zoology with minors in physiology and chemistry.

During her career, she was the first woman to become a professor at the prestigious Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) in 1949.

Also, she was the first woman to head a specialty division at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She built P&S’s anesthesia division in association with Allen Whipple.

What is Apgar Score?

Newborns were 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:

1) Heart rate

2) Respiration

3) Color

4) Muscle tone

5) 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.

She was extraordinary during her academic career and held three honorary doctorates — Honorary doctorate, Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (1964); Honorary doctorate, Mount Holyoke College (1965); and Honorary doctorate, New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry (1967).

Dr Virginia Apgar was also awarded with Elizabeth Blackwell Award by the American Women’s Medical Association.

She wrote over 60 research articles, and her book, Is My Baby All Right? A Guide to Birth Defects, which she co-authored with Joan Beck, is a popular reference book.

Dr Apgar was also well known for her work in the field of teratology (birth abnormalities).

Virginia, who never married, died of cirrhosis of the liver on August 7, 1974, at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.