Reducing Infant Mortality

New parents or parents-to-be are very aware of the Apgar score to assess the health of newborns. While the Apgar score is well known, little is known about the hidden hero behind the score.

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 MDs were few in number, but Virginia excelled at her medical studies graduating fourth in her class.

She wanted to become a surgeon, but was discouraged from this pursuit by the chair of surgery. He encouraged her to pursue a career in anesthesiology instead because he felt she had the ability to advance anesthesiology practices to support new surgical techniques.

Dr. Apgar focused her interest 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 mother. 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 are 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 make a difference in 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 established her niche

Hidden heroes 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. Hidden heroes are ambassadors of hope. They inspire others to think of what might be, rather than what has been.

* * *

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

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.