Babies are carefully evaluated at birth, thanks to the passionate concern of Dr. Virginia Apgar (1909-1974), born on this day in Westfield, New Jersey.
"Women have to be so much better at things than men do to be recognized in society," she observed.
In 1962, she created the Apgar Newborn Scoring System to rate newborn infants on a scale of 0 to 2, on five vital functions--heart rate, respiration, rreflexes, muscle tone, and skin color. The score is determined one minute after delivery, then four minutes later.
"A baby," said poet Carl Sandburg, "is God's opinion that life should go on."
Apgar realized newborns, in the swirl of birthing activities, were sent off to nurseries and examined later. Such delay for a baby in distress could be disastrous. With Apgar scoring, infants discovered to be at risk were helped immediately and watched over carefully.
She continued to dedicate her life to helping children. In 1959, with what peers called "missionary zeal," Apgar led the March of Dimes research program to prevent birth defects.
A woman of many talents, Apgar had a life-long interest in music, played the violin, and handcrafted stringed instruments. She was an avid gardener, aviator, and stamp collector. In an appropriate tribute, the U.S. Postal Service in 1994 issued a 20¢ commemorative stamp in her honor.
With care, lives are changed.