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Author photo. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Staff Photograph (Library of Congress)

New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Staff Photograph (Library of Congress)

Virginia Apgar (1909–1974)

Author of Is My Baby All Right?

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Dr. Virginia Apgar was a pioneer in the fields of anesthesiology, neonatology, public health, and birth defects. She's best known as the developer of the Apgar score, a method of quickly assessing the physical condition of newborns immediately after at birth. The Apgar score measures an infant’s skin color, pulse, reflex, muscle tone, and respiration, quickly indicating whether the newborn needs immediate attention to stay alive. The Apgar score was revolutionary in 1953 because it was the first clinical method to recognize the newborn’s needs as a patient. It helped spur the development of neonatology as a medical specialty, establishing the need for protocols and facilities such as the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) to provide specialized care. This system has been adopted worldwide. After Dr. Apgar left clinical practice, she became a pivotal figure in redirecting the March of Dimes mission in the 1960s from polio to birth defects and other infant health problems such as premature birth, focusing on the importance of early prenatal care and healthy pregnancy. Dr. Apgar was known throughout her life as an irrepressible and charismatic champion for babies whose wit and lively personality captivated everyone she encountered.
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