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Virginia Apgar, MD, MPH

Virginia Apgar, MD, MPHIn some ways, Virginia Apgar helped babies born in modern hospitals all over the world. In 1952, she developed the 10-point Apgar score to assist physicians and nurses in assessing the status of newborns. Given at one minute and five minutes after birth, the Apgar test measures a child's breathing, skin color, reflexes, motion and heart rate. A low score can signal the need for immediate attention.

Trained as a surgeon and anesthesiologist, Dr. Apgar eventually focused on the effects of anesthesia on newborns. She raised funds for research into birth defects, their prevention and treatment. A friend said, "She probably did more than any other physician to bring the problem of birth defects out of back rooms."

The culmination of her work was the development of the specialty of perinatology. She died in 1974 at 65.