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Google Doodle honors Mount Holyoke's Virginia Apgar

08 June 2018

Google on Thursday dedicated a Doodle to honour pioneering United States clinician Virginia Apgar who developed a quick health test for infants to determine if a newborn needs help breathing or is having heart trouble.

Though Apgar stayed away from women's movements, she would say "women were liberated the day they were born: they just had to be better at what they did to succeed in a man's world or profession". On the other hand, the 5-minute score tells the health care provider how well the baby is doing outside the mother's womb. The test is carried out within five minutes of birth and it takes about a minute to judge if the infant needs any immediate medical attention.

This was achieved by trying to investigate the first 24 hours of an infant's life and document trends to distinguish healthy babies from unhealthy ones.

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And she was a trailblazer in more ways than one: She was one of four women accepted into Columbia's medical school in 1929, and, while she was initially interested in pursuing a surgical residency, the chair of surgery at Columbia discouraged her from pursuing that field, and encouraged her to enter anesthesiology instead. Despite the U.S. infant mortality rate decreasing overall, a high number of infants were still dying within 24 hours of birth. Her score has a range of zero to ten based on tot's condition and helped resuscitate infants struggling to breathe.

The US clinician was born in 1909 in Westfield, New Jersey to a musical family. But the Apgar score system developed by her is still used to quickly assess the health of newborns. She left Columbia, got a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University, and began her work on genetics. The hospital opened a new division of anaesthesia at that time and Apgar became its first Director. In 1949, she became the first woman to become a full-time professor at Columbia University.

She died on 7 August, 1974 because of a liver failure, a disease also called as cirrhosis. In her personal life, Apgar kept herself busy with work, and she never married or had children.

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A USA postage stamp carrying her portrait was also released after her death. She breathed her last at the age of 65. When she was introduced to instrument-making, she made two violins along with her friend and later, even made a cello.

These included fishing, stamp collecting and flying lessons in her fifties.

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Google Doodle honors Mount Holyoke's Virginia Apgar