Apgar, Virginia, 1909-1974

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Virginia Apgar was born in Westfield, New Jersey on June 7, 1909 to Charles E. Apgar, a businessman and insurance executive, and Helen May Clarke Apgar. After graduating from high school in Westfield she entered Mount Holyoke College in 1925. She majored in zoology, wrote articles for the student newspaper, participated in campus athletics and dramatics, and played violin in the College orchestra. After receiving a B.A. in 1929 she became one of the first women to study at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She received her M.D. in 1933 and began an internship in surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. After two years of work Apgar became convinced that a woman could not support herself as a surgeon and decided to enter the newly-emerging field of anesthesiology. She trained at the University of Wisconsin and Bellvue Hospital and became a board-certified anesthesiologist in 1937; she began teaching anesthesiology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center before she had completed her training. She was appointed Director of the Center's Division of Anesthesiology in 1938. When she became a full professor in 1949 she relinquished her other duties and devoted herself to studying the use of anesthesia during childbirth. In 1952 she presented her system for evaluating the health of infants immediately after birth which became known as the Apgar Score. In 1959 Apgar received a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and joined the staff of the National Foundation (later the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation). She devoted much of the rest of her life to increasing public support for research about the causes, prevention, and treatment of birth defects. In 1972 she wrote "Is My Baby All Right?" with Joan Beck, a book aimed at helping parents understand birth defects. While continuing to work for the National Foundation she also was a lecturer in the Department of Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and lecturer and clinical professor of pediatrics at Cornell University Medical College in New York City. From 1966-1971 Apgar was an alumna trustee of Mount Holyoke College. She received many honorary degrees and awards during her lifetime, for example, becoming the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1973. She died in New York City on August 7, 1974 at the age of sixty-five. Posthumous honors for Apgar include a commemorative postage stamp issued in 1994 and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.

From the guide to the Virginia Apgar papers MS 0504., 1880-1975, 1925-1974, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)

Virginia Apgar was born in Westfield, New Jersey on June 7, 1909 to Charles E. Apgar, a businessman and insurance executive, and Helen May Clarke Apgar. After graduating from high school in Westfield she entered Mount Holyoke College in 1925. She majored in zoology, wrote articles for the student newspaper, participated in campus athletics and dramatics, and played violin in the College orchestra. After receiving a B.A. in 1929 she became one of the first women to study at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She received her M.D. in 1933 and began an internship in surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. After two years of work Apgar became convinced that a woman could not support herself as a surgeon and decided to enter the newly-emerging field of anesthesiology. She trained at the University of Wisconsin and Bellevue Hospital and became a board-certified anesthesiologist in 1937; she began teaching anesthesiology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center before she completed her training. She was appointed Director of the Center's Division of Anesthesiology in 1938. When she became a full professor in 1949 she relinquished her other duties and devoted herself to studying the use of anesthesia during childbirth. In 1952 she presented her system for evaluating the health of infants immediately after birth which became known as the Apgar Score. In 1959 Apgar received a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and joined the staff of the National Foundation (later the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation). She devoted much of the rest of her life to increasing public support for research about the causes, prevention, and treatment of birth defects. In 1972 she wrote "Is My Baby All Right?" with Joan Beck, a book aimed at helping parents understand birth defects. While continuing to work for the National Foundation she also was a lecturer in the Department of Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and a lecturer and clinical professor of pediatrics at Cornell University Medical Center in New York City. From 1966-1971 Apgar was an alumna trustee of Mount Holyoke College. She received many honorary degrees and awards during her lifetime, for example, becoming the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1973. She died in New York City on August 7, 1974 at the age of sixty-five. Posthumous honors for Apgar include a commemorative postage stamp issued in 1994 and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.

From the guide to the Virginia Apgar Collection MS 0816., 1962-present, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Virginia Apgar papers MS 0504., 1880-1975, 1925-1974 Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Sellers, Sarah (Sarah E.). Virginia Apgar collection, 1962-present. Mount Holyoke College, Williston & Miles-Smith Library
referencedIn L. Stanley James Papers MS 0782., ca.1920-1994, n.d. Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Sage Colleges. Archives. Honorary degree recipient for 1973, Virginia Apgar. The Sage Colleges Libraries
referencedIn Reynard, Michael,. Letters and documents, 1769-1974. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Virginia Apgar Collection MS 0816., 1962-present Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn James, L. Stanley. L. Stanley James Papers, ca.1920-1994. Mount Holyoke College, Williston & Miles-Smith Library
referencedIn ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Inventory to the Records of the Women's Project of New Jersey, 1984-2004 Rutgers University Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Apgar Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Apgar Association. - Johannes Peter Apgard and his descendants. corporateBody
associatedWith Apgar, Charles E. (Charles Emory), 1865-1950 person
associatedWith Apgar family - Homes and haunts. corporateBody
associatedWith Aqualumni (Organization). corporateBody
associatedWith Butterfield, L. Joseph, d. 1999 person
associatedWith Centenary Collegiate Institute (Hackettstown, N.J.) - Students. corporateBody
employeeOf Columbia-Presbyterian medical center corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center - Employees. corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center - Faculty. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Columbia University. College of Physicians and Surgeons corporateBody
employeeOf Columbia University. College of Physicians and Surgeons corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons - Students. corporateBody
associatedWith Houston, Jourdan. person
associatedWith James, L. Stanley person
associatedWith Johns Hopkins University - Faculty. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Johns Hopkins University. School of Hygiene and Public Health. corporateBody
associatedWith Johns Hopkins University - Students. corporateBody
employeeOf March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Mount Holyoke College. corporateBody
associatedWith Mount Holyoke College - Students. corporateBody
associatedWith National Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith National Women's Hall of Fame (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) - Medals. corporateBody
associatedWith Reeds, Karen. State of health : New Jersey's medical heritage. person
associatedWith Reynard, Michael, person
associatedWith Sellers, Sarah (Sarah E.) person
associatedWith University of Wisconsin - Students. corporateBody
associatedWith Virginia Apgar Symposium - (2002 : - Columbia University) corporateBody
associatedWith Warren, K. B. Library Catalogs. person
associatedWith Waters, Ralph M. (Ralph Milton), 1883-1979 person
associatedWith Women's Project of New Jersey corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Westfield NJ US
Manhattan NY US
Subject
College students--Massachusetts
Physicians--United States--Biography
Anesthesiologists--United States--Biography
Women anesthesiologists--United States
Mount Holyoke College--Student life - 1925-1929
Women college students--Massachusetts
Student activities--New Jersey--Hackettstown
College students--New Jersey
Prenatal care
Women physicians--United States
Women physicians--United States--Biography
Anesthesiologists--United States
Apgar score
Abnormalities, Human
Student activities--Massachusetts--South Hadley
Suburban homes--New Jersey--Westfield
Physicians--United States
Women--United States--Economic conditions
Commemorative postage stamps--United States
Interns (Medicine) - New York (State) - New York
Infants (Newborn) - Medical care
Women anesthesiologists--United States--Biography
Hospitals--New York--Medical staff--New York (State)
Occupation
Physicians
Anesthesiologists
Function

Person

Birth 1909-06-07

Death 1974-08-07

Americans

Information

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