Apgar's work on the health of babies also saw her become the first woman to be a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1949. Dr Apgar, who was a leader in the fields of anesthesiology and teratology, is best known as the inventor of the Apgar score that determines the health of a newborn baby immediately after birth. In her later years, she worked for March of Dimes, a non-profit founded by President Franklin Roosevelt that initially targeted polio but went on to focus on the prevention of birth defects.
She was the director of the school's department of anaesthesiology.
The 1929 graduate of the South Hadley women's college is known for creating in 1952 what is called the Agpar score, an internationally recognized screening that quickly evaluates the health of newborns as they take their first breaths of life outside the womb.
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This inheritance motivated her to study zoology, chemistry and physiology before attending Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and obtaining a medical degree in 1933. The test is done within one to five minutes of a child's birth and may be repeated if the scores are low. Before she turned 30, she had founded the Division of Anesthesia at Columbia University. The resulting Apgar score ranges from 0 to 10.
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Her 1972 book Is My Baby All Right? explains the causes and treatment of common birth defects and proposes precautions to help improve the chances of having a healthy baby.
Virginia Apgar never married and died in 1974 of liver cirrhosis at the age of 65.
When she graduated in 1925 she knew she wanted to become a doctor and completed a residency at P&S in 1937. She was also the first woman to head a division at the Presbyterian Hospital in NY.