#WomenInSTEMWednesday: Virginia Apgar

Courtesy: Mt Holyoke College

Whether she was carrying around pieces needed for an emergency tracheotomy or educating people on birth defects prevention, this week’s #WomenInSTEM was a BOSS!

Virginia Apgar is one of the earliest doctors to pick up anesthesiology and would eventually develop a score to check a newborn’s health.

When Apgar began her internship at Columbia University, she was one of only a few women in the country studying surgery. After noticing her spark and energy, her advisor suggested she shift her study to anesthesiology which was an emerging field and not considered a specialty at that point.

She continued to study surgery and anesthesiology. Eventually, her view shifted to babies and noticed there was no procedure for examining babies right away. She developed a scoring system that would look at the heart rate, respiration, reflex irritability, muscle tone and color of the newborn. This system would become known as the APGAR score. Low scores mean a doctor’s attention is needed.

In the late 1950s, Apgar wanted to get a master’s degree in public health. A national foundation (now known as the March of Dimes) offered her a position as the chief of the new Division of Congenital Malformations. Apgar would travel the country informing about the reproductive process and birth defects.

The APGAR score is still in use today and has protected babies all around the world for the better part of the last century. We can all be thankful for her! #WomenInSTEMWednesday

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