Google Doodle honours pioneering clinician Virginia Apgar

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New Delhi, June 7 (IANS) Google on Thursday dedicated a Doodle to honour pioneering US clinician Virginia Apgar who developed a quick health test for infants to determine if a newborn needs help breathing or is having heart trouble.

The Google Doodle marks what would have been Apgar’s 109th birthday.

Apgar, who was born in 1909 in Westfield, New Jersey, developed the now ubiquitous Apgar score in 1952. The Apgar test is performed on a baby at 1 and 5 minutes after birth.

The 1-minute score determines how well the baby tolerated the birthing process and the 5-minute score tells the health care provider how well the baby is doing outside the mother’s womb, according to the US National Library of Medicine.

The test can be performed by a doctor, midwife, or nurse to examine the baby’s breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes and skin colour.

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

The test is based on a total score of 1 to 10. A score lower than 7 should warn caregivers that the baby needs medical attention. A higher score in the test means less threat to the baby’s survival.

The Apgar score contributed immensely towards reducing infant mortality.

Her contributions are even more noteworthy as she did her research and inventions at a time when women were discouraged to pursue higher education in medicine.

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

But she could barely spend two years into her surgery residency as the then Chair of Surgery at the institution persuaded her to switch to anaesthesia, an uncalled-for move that Columbia University termed “a reflection of the times”.

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She trained in anaesthesia at the University of Wisconsin and Bellevue Hospital in the US, but returned to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in 1938. The hospital opened a new division of anaesthesia at that time and Apgar became its first Director.

She was appointed the first woman Professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1949, according to a biography of the clinician at the Columbia University website.

Apgar’s work on prevention of infant mortality was eventually recognised as she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in the US. A US postage stamp carrying her portrait was also released after her death.

She breathed her last at the age of 65.

–IANS

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