Virginia Apgar


Thank you to regular GGSTEM contributor, Jill Tietjen, for this post about Virginia Apgar.  Apgar’s photo is from the Library of Congress.

Do you know what your Apgar Score was?  In all likelihood, at one minute and five minutes after your birth, you received an Apgar Score (0-10) that told the doctors and your parents if you needed additional medical assistance.  Dr. Virginia Apgar developed that score in 1952 and it is used worldwide today in all hospitals to assess the health of babies!  The Apgar Score has saved the lives of countless newborn babies.

Here is a video with Dr. Apgar and a nurse discussing how to take the Apgar Score on a newborn:

The score uses her name:

A – Appearance

P – Pulse

G – Grimace

A – Activity

R – Respiration

And each letter gets a 0, 1 or 2.   The best score is a 10.

After being one of the few women admitted to the Columbia University College of Physicians, she wanted to become a surgeon.  However, she was told that at this time in our country’s history, she would starve – because no one would want a woman surgeon!  So, Apgar shifted her focus to anesthesiology.  She became the Director of Anesthesiology, the first woman to head any department at the University.  Another first for Dr. Apgar was when she became the first woman full professor at the University.

After leaving Columbia, she served as an executive with the March of Dimes Foundation, continuing her work to identify and prevent birth defects.  In 1973, she became the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Medicine from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

Dr. Apgar was inducted posthumously to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995.  I met her great grand nephew at the induction.  His name is Eric Apgar and at the time, he worked for Apple in California.


In 1994, Dr. Apgar was honored on a U.S. postage stamp.

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