Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar (1909 - 1974) 300

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) was an American anesthesiologist.

Leader in the emerging field of Anaesthetics in the 1940s and latter Obstetric Anaesthesia as well the new field of teratology (congenital abnormalities) from 1960

1972 published ‘Is my baby all right? A guide to birth defects’, bestselling book exploring the common causes of birth defects and their treatments as well as guidance and advice to help women have healthy babies

Eponymously affiliated with the Apgar score – to assess the health of the newborn child. APGAR is the backronym for the eponym, first suggested by Professor Joseph Butterfield in 1961

  • Born on June 7, 1909 in Westfield, New Jersey United States
  • 1933 – MD from Colombia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • 1933-1935 Surgical internship at Columbian-Presbyterian Hospital- head of department Allen Oldfather Whipple
  • 1936-1938 Started to peruse career training in Anaesthesia; trained with nurse anaesthetist at Colombia-Presbyterian Hospital, Dr Ralph Waters’s at the University of Wisconsin and Dr Emery Rovenstine at Bellevue Hospital in New York
  • 1938 – Returned to Columbian-Presbyterian Hospital and appointed the Head of the newly formed department of Anaesthesia
  • 1949 – Appointed first female full time professor at Colombia University of Physicians and Surgeons
  • 1953 – Published first article on APGAR score
  • 1958-1959 Masters of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University Marylands
  • 1959 – Became director of the division of congenital abnormalities at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as March of Dimes)
  • 1965-1973 Lecturer and clinical professor of Paediatrics at Cornell University College of Medicine
  • 1967-1968 Director of Basic Medical Research at National Foundation
  • Died on August 7, 1974 of Liver Failure

Medical Eponyms
APGAR scoring system for newborns (1953)

The APGAR scoring system is a comprehensive screening tool which should be used to assess newborns at birth and can assist in identifying the need for any immediate attention/ intervention that baby needs. A practical method to evaluate the condition of a new born by using five simple signs:

APGAR-score-Table 3


Whilst she was a surgical internship at Columbian-Presbyterian Hospital, the head of department, Allen Whipple (of the pancreatic surgery), discouraged her from perusing a career in Surgery as he had already educated some female surgeons who had not succeeded; he directed instead towards training in Anaesthesia. It was later said that he believed that she had the ‘energy, intelligence and ability needed to make significant contributions in this area.’

Although privately Apgar would share her frustration regarding gender and financial inequities within Medicine, she never let this be a barrier and channeled her passion into constantly striving to develop the boundaries of emerging specialties.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


Lowri Bowen. Mwynhau fy mhrofiad Awstralia, ond rwyf yn caru cymru yn fwy  | LinkedIn |

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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