Affinity and Beyond – Episode 4

As she began to explore more stories of talent, Brianna began to see why Henry Jacobs had made discovering and nurturing talents his life’s passion. So far the stories she had written were of determined individuals who fought through a lack of acceptance to discover and utilize their talent. She began to wonder what it was about these individuals that made them so determined. And the collateral question was what might society have missed by not providing the nurturing support to others that Henry was giving to those in his foundation?

Virginia Apgar grew up in a family which faced medical challenges. One of her two brothers died of tuberculosis, and the other had chronic health problems. Her family’s health issues led Virginia to pursue medicine as a career. Women MD’s were few in number, but Virginia excelled at her medical studies graduating fourth in her class.

Despite the talent she had shown in medical school, she was discouraged by the chairman of surgery from a career in surgery. Instead he encouraged her to pursue a career in anesthesiology because he felt she had the talent to advance anesthesiology practices to support new surgical techniques.

Dr. Apgar focused her interests on how anesthesia affected mothers and their babies. More women were having their babies in hospitals, but the mortality rate was high. Once a child was born, the focus of the doctors was on the health of the mothers.  Babies who were struggling were left to die.

When she was asked by a medical student how to judge the health of a newborn, Dr. Apgar had an inspiration. She created a scale to assess the medical challenges of newborns. The scale assessed heart rate, respiration, color, muscle tone and reflex irritability. Babies were given a score of 0 (distress), 1 (less than optimal), 2 (optimal). The beauty of the scoring system was the speed at which babies could be    assessed and medical actions taken. The first score was determined one minute after birth. This Apgar scoring system has become widely used to assess babies’ medical status. The Apgar score helped reduce infant mortality dramatically.

Dr. Apgar’s treatment by the medical profession could have led to a life of resentment, but she chose instead to use her talent to make a difference with her life.  When she was denied access to certain fields of medicine, she developed new areas where her energy and curiosity couldn’t be denied. While she is best known for the Apgar scoring system, she devoted much of her career to preventing and treating birth           defects. She used her talent to establish her niche in medicine where she could not be denied.

Those who discover their talent don’t let personal challenges stop them from their quest. They realize the futility of resentment and instead focus on the contributions they can make. They become ambassadors of hope. They inspire others to think of what might be, rather than what has been.

As Brianna reflected on Dr. Apgar’s talent, she began to think of questions she wanted to discuss with Henry. The questions that came to mind from her stories so far were:

  • What drives individuals to discover and use their talent when they face so many barriers to acceptance?
  • Why do we disparage the potential talent of others based upon irrelevant factors?
  • How might these stories encourage the self-discovery of talent by those who are given little hope by our society?

Brianna was both excited and overwhelmed by the project she had undertaken.

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“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live that hope.”
– Barbara Kingsolver (author)

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