Virginia Apgar

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Virginia Apgar
BirthplaceWestfield, New Jersey

Apgar, Virginia

(1909–1974) physician, anesthesiologist; born in Westfield, N.J. Best known for pioneering work in anesthesia relating to childbirth, she developed the Apgar Score to evaluate newborns (1952). She also created the first department of anesthesiology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center (1938–49) where she was the first woman to head both a department and to hold a full professorship in anesthesiology (1949). Her deepening interest in maternal and child health eventually led to an executive position with the National Foundation-March of Dimes (1959) where she spent the rest of her life fostering public support for birth defect research. With her fundraising ability, the annual income of the National Foundation increased from $19 million to $46 million by the time of her death. She also made birth defects an academic subspecialty at Cornell University Medical College where she taught (1965–73). Author of scores of papers, she was a much admired teacher most appreciated for her humanitarian qualities.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.