Have you ever heard of Virginia Apgar? Unless you are a medical professional delivering babies, your answer is probably “no.” Yet, if you were born after 1952, you probably benefited from her simple, but revolutionary system of evaluating newborn babies’ health. Last week, on the day of her birthday, Google honored Apgar’s vision and contribution with one of their custom “doodles.” They especially designed search pages that stay up for one day.

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Visionary Leadership at its Best

Apgar’s story is a clear example of visionary leadership. She saw a need, identified and pursued a vision, and as a result, our world is a better place. Her story goes to show that visionary leadership indeed changes history.

She Saw a Need

Apgar was an obstetric anesthesiologist during the early part of the twentieth century. She noticed that although the general infant mortality rate in the US had been declining steadily, the rate of infant deaths within the first 24 hours after birth remained unchanged, and decided to do something about it.

She Made Observations and Asked Questions

For almost a decade, she observed infants at the moment of their birth and identified certain physical signs in thousands of babies. She identified five areas distinguishing a healthy baby from one in danger: skin color (pink or blue), pulse rate, response to stimulation, muscle movement, and breathing.

She Developed a Simple System

Her simple system included... observe these five signs at one and five minutes after birth. Give each sign a grade between zero and two; the total grade determines the health of the newborn. A score of seven to ten indicates a healthy bundle of joy. A score between four and six means special attention is required. Less than four means the infant is in immediate danger and needs resuscitation.

Countless Babies Were Saved

In the early 1950's, hospitals in the US started using Apgar’s grading system. The practice spread, and today, pediatricians, nurses, and midwives all over the world use the Apgar system to prevent neonatal deaths and lasting defects every single day.

Visionary Leadership Saves Babies

Virginia Apgar is a great example of how one visionary leader can change history. She saw a need and decided to address it. She was curious and made careful observations for many years, resulting in a simple process (goals). She tested those goals, and the success led to global implementation of the system.

I was born in 1958, so I certainly got an Apgar score. My children did, as did my grandchildren. If you were born after 1950's, chances are you were graded as well. As a physician, I graded newborns in delivery rooms, taking the appropriate action when their numbers were low. Indeed, one person’s visionary leadership resulted in countless lives saved.

You may not have the chance to change history on such a global scale, but in your own world, your God-given vision can change history for one person, one church, or one city.

Just be attentive for the need God shows you. Ask questions, make observations, and learn all you can. Pray and ask God to help you develop a solution to the problem - a vision to see God’s Kingdom come on earth in a specific way. Set goals, mobilize others, and run with the vision. You just may end up saving countless lives.