Sylvia Hathaway Chavez on Virginia Apgar

“SHE was a pioneer for newborn babies”

We've all heard of the APGAR score for newborn babies, but did you know it was a woman who invented it? Virginia Apgar developed this test for assessing the health of newborns in the first few minutes of life. Dr. Apgar’s method was quickly and widely adopted and is still used by medical professionals today. Her simple, powerful APGAR Score is credited with improving newborn health outcomes and decreasing infant mortality worldwide. Non-profit Executive, and mother of two, Sylvia Hathaway Chavez tells us the story of Apgar's challenges as a pioneering neonatal doctor who created the gold standard for evaluating newborn health, work that has impacted millions of families.


Sylvia Hathaway Chavez

Sylvia Hathaway Chavez (she/her) is a nonprofit leader specializing in social impact and the arts. Sylvia is a frequent panelist, moderator, and speaker on nonprofit management and women’s leadership. Currently, she oversees public programming for Mount Saint Mary’s University and their Center for the Advancement of Women, including the Report on the Status of Women and Girls, among other special events. Sylvia previously served as Executive Director of the women’s film nonprofit Look What SHE Did!, overseeing programs, strategy, and resource development. Sylvia has long been a facilitator with Girls Leadership, where she delivers workshops on leadership and conflict resolution for girls. Before that, Sylvia was a theatre performer, teaching artist, and manager of theatre education programs for youth. Sylvia earned her M.A. in Nonprofit Management from Antioch University, a CNP credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, and a B.A. in Theatre Arts.

Featured Woman

Dr. Virginia Apgar

Dr. Virginia Apgar was an American physician and medical researcher who is best known for developing the Apgar score, a simple and effective method for evaluating the health of newborn infants. Born in 1909 in New Jersey, Apgar graduated from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1933 and went on to become the first woman to be appointed a full professor at the institution. In 1952, Apgar developed the Apgar score as a means of quickly and accurately assessing the health of newborn infants. The score evaluates five vital signs: appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration, with each category receiving a score of 0 to 2. The scores are then added up to give a total score out of 10, with higher scores indicating better health outcomes. The Apgar score quickly became a standard method for evaluating newborn health and is still used by medical professionals around the world today. Apgar also made significant contributions to the field of anesthesia, serving as the director of the division of anesthesia at Columbia University from 1949 to 1959. She was a pioneering female physician and researcher who received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including the Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1966 and induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995. Apgar passed away in 1974, but her contributions to the field of medicine continue to have a significant impact on the health and well-being of newborn infants around the world.