Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)
Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, administering drugs that reduce women’s pain during childbirth, in the US in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system using five easily assessable measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate, to evaluate whether or not infants would benefit from medical attention immediately after birth. Apgar’s system showed that infants who were previously set aside as too sick to survive, despite low Apgar scores, could recover with immediate medical attention. Additionally, Apgar researched the effects of anesthesia used during childbirth and advocated for the prevention and management of birth defects. Apgar’s work led to a decrease in infant mortality rates in the mid-twentieth century, and into the twenty-first century, hospitals around the world still used the Apgar score at one and five minutes after birth.