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If you do not live in North America, there are three myths you might come across about the Apgar score. The first is that APGAR is an acronym, when actually it is Dr Virginia Apgar’s eponymous score, although it has been tortured into a mnemonic: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration. The second is that Dr Apgar was a paediatrician, when actually she was an obstetric anaesthetist at the time she published her score in 1953. The third is that she published her work in a paediatric journal, when in fact she published it in the now defunct ‘Current Researches in Anesthesia and Analgesia’ (full text reproduced in the online supplementary appendix).1
Supplementary file 1
Setting the record straight is one thing, but there are many other remarkable features about Dr Apgar’s life and career which are just as interesting. To mention but two: not long after publishing the score for which she has become immortal, she switched career, trained in public health, was fascinated by teratology and became a powerful and effective advocate for rubella immunisation at a time when rubella caused embryopathy at a distressingly high rate in the USA. She also smashed a glass ceiling by becoming the first female professor at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In her paper, Dr Apgar showed that her score was an overall measure of many factors that impact on a baby’s vitality at birth. As a reminder: she …
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